Regional language is a term used to refer to a language that is spoken by a sizeable number of people but is not the de facto language of communication in the rest of the country. A language is considered regional when it is mostly spoken by people who reside largely in one particular area of a state or country.
The status of regional language is often given to languages that satisfy two main criteria:
- The language is used by people who have a population less than the majority of the state or nation
- It is not the official language of the country.
Even though Article 343(1) of the Indian Constitution states that “the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagiri Script”, there are 22 officially recognized languages in the country which include:
Significance of Regional Languages Pre-Independence
The vernacular press played a significant role in the Indian Freedom Struggle. The first revolt of Indian Independence, largely attributed to the work of Mangal Pandey and the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’, was the first organized revolt against the British by patriotic Indians. With the first vernacular press being established only 1 year shy of 4 decades ago, the regional language newspapers and other written media started largely propagating the same nationalistic vigor through vernacular media. This became quite a large movement, and a lot of local Indian folk started raising their voices. In an attempt to quell this rising wave of nationalistic sentiment, the British passed the Vernacular Press Act in 1878, which Indians dubbed ‘the Gagging Act’ because it was a law that regulated press freedom in the country and applied to the vernacular medium alone. However, it was repealed in 1882, following which the nationalistic fervor of the country steadily grew. Some of the most popular vernacular media at the time include the Bengal Gazette, Kesari, Paridasak, and Moon Nayak, among others.
Why Teach Regional languages
In a scenario where the entire world is rapidly globalizing, what significance does regional language have? Shouldn’t we be focusing on teaching students and making them fluent in global languages like English and Spanish? This is quite a compelling question, but the answer to it requires careful pragmatic analysis of the spread and reach of those languages in the inner workings of a country and how much effort needs to be put into retraining the majority of the working population in that language - which not only requires an additional blog but a lot of linguistic and cultural research put into studying this subject, which is not the subject of this blog.
This is presented not as a counterargument to the claim mentioned above, but rather as an alternative approach to its opposite paradigm - what’s the advantage of learning regional languages?
Helps People Connect With The Language’s Culture
Every regional language, especially in a pluralistic society like India with a history of over 5000 years, has a rich detailed history in each language. As far as people who do not know this language are concerned, that language and its culture are completely inaccessible to them. Teaching regional languages to students means that they will have the ability to get an insider’s perspective of the hidden knowledge and culture behind the veil of that language.
Culture in this context is not just restricted to literature - it extends to different aspects like dance, music, sculptures, architecture, and so on.
Easier Communication for Education
Education is something that has the unique juxtaposition of having an industrial scale in structure, while at the same time being highly personal by nature. This causes cognitive dissonance among learners, especially in students who might not be comfortable with the medium of education being English. Regional language can fill this gap with the teacher explaining the subject in the language so that the student can understand the basic concept behind the subject and reproduce it in the exam in their own words.
Knowing an Extra Language
The more languages you know, the more a number of people you will be able to effectively with. There is no shame associated with either knowing or not knowing a language, but it would be better to know as many languages as possible for a more wholesome and holistic all-round education.
As you can see, regional languages have, are, and always will play an important role in the socio-economic and political situation of a nation as well as the educational advancement of a country’s society. It can really bring together people of a community and help them connect with each other better.
This is not an attempt at glorifying a particular regional language or playing down the importance of national languages but is rather a reminder to connect with one’s roots and understand the cultural relevance and historical significance of something that is simply considered one’s mother tongue - there is a lot more power to knowledge than meets the eye.