Hindi: Between the home and the world (गवर्नेंस नाउ से साभार)

Renowned Hindi writer and critic Manager Pandey strongly reacted when he heard that government of India was trying to secure 129 votes in the United Nations to get Hindi included as one of the official languages in the world body.

The news broke out on the last day of August. Amidst preparation of the 10th Vishwa Hindi Sammelan (World Hindi Conference), held in September, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj announced that her government was committed to propagate Hindi worldwide and was willing to bear the financial burden if Hindi became one of the official languages in the UN.

But according to Dr Pandey, a retired Hindi professor of Jawaharlal Nehru university, this was just a new sloganeering in the name of promoting Hindi. Else, the government would have planned to make Hindi the official language of India, in true sense, first. “Even in the Hindi-speaking states, most of the official work is being done in English, and not in Hindi. English, or any other language of the world, does not have a ‘special day’ like Hindi. This itself shows the pathetic condition of this language. Its significance has become similar to that of a festival, which is celebrated in relation to a story of the past or something that has happened in the past, but doesn’t have any relation with the present,” he said. The Hindi Diwas is celebrated on September 14 every year in Hindi-speaking regions of the country.

The 10th Vishwa Hindi Sammelan, organised in Bhopal, was however full of rhetoric regarding Hindi. Inaugurating this conference at Lal Parade Ground in Bhopal on September 10, prime minister Narendra Modi claimed that Hindi will rule the digital world along with English and Chinese (Mandarin). The market for Hindi language is huge and companies can tap into it by creating apps. “If we forget Hindi, it will be a loss to the country,” he said.

But these claims and announcements cannot change the ground reality in the second decade of 21st century India. Most Indians are convinced that in the current age, Hindi has lost the battle badly and one’s future is very much dependent upon his or her proficiency in English. In big cities it has become difficult to fetch even humble jobs like that of a waiter or peon without having the knowledge of English.

This is why the demand for English medium schools is growing at a fast pace, even in rural India. In this highly diverse country, consensus on any issue is rare, but the ‘necessity of English’ is one ‘theory’ that is accepted equally pan India. Ideological differences are irrelevant on the issue of language. The rich or poor, left or right, all speak on the same lines to explain the importance of English language in India.

No doubt, this reality is totally opposite to the picture conceived by leaders of the Indian freedom struggle, especially by father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was in favour of Hindustani, a mix of Hindi and Urdu, written in both Devanagari and Farsi scripts. But after he died, the constituent assembly accepted Hindi as the official language. Article 351 says, “It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, styles and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, where necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.”

But that never happened. Due to opposition by the southern states, especially from Tamil Nadu, Hindi was given a backseat and later forgotten. The government never showed any seriousness to make Hindi an important language, in which teaching and learning of science and other modern subjects would be possible. Interestingly, Hindi heartland is now of the view that the idea of ‘Angrezi Hatao’ was not constructive and that two-three generations wasted their time and energy on this. The popular slogan was coined by great socialist leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia in the sixties. People then bought this idea emotionally but did not realise that leaders were in no mood of performing any experiments. They sent their children to the best English medium schools, and sometime even abroad.

The Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh, led by foreign-returned engineer Akhilesh Yadav (son of Mulayam Singh Yadav who has long advocated the cause of Hindi), has been focusing on English under skill development schemes. This, when the government also honours Dr Lohia as Hindi’s torch-bearer, and many government schemes and a huge park in Lucknow are dedicated in the memory of the great socialist.

Dr Namvar Singh, another renowned critic of Hindi, says, “The future of Hindi became uncertain after Gandhi died. Gandhi wrote the famous ‘Hind Swaraj’ in 1909 in Gujarati, wherein he had mentioned the importance of Hindi. After returning to India in 1915, Gandhi travelled throughout the country and found that only Hindi (or Hindustani) was capable of becoming the national language. Hindi was a dream of Gandhi, but his successor Nehru was hesitant to replace English with it. The constitution gave a timeframe of 15 years to make the changes but due to lack of political will, English is still enjoying its status as it was during the British rule. We talk a lot about Gandhi but have no real interest to fulfill his dreams regarding society or language. It means nothing that the PM speaks Hindi in the UN assembly if it is not getting its place in India. Globalisation could not be a logical explanation for the inevitability of English. Countries like Germany, France, China, Russia and Japan have proved it.”

After 69 years of independence, one is amazed to see the popularity of Hindi films, songs and soap operas, but one is unable to enter institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and ISRO with Hindi. English is a must. If the government doesn’t want to open the doors for Hindi in these premier institutions, then spending crores of rupees to celebrate Hindi is meaningless.

General secretary of Jan Sanskriti Manch and professor of Hindi at Allahabad University, Dr Pranay Krishna, says, “In the arena of the high-end market, modern culture and advanced academics, the subcontinental Hindi remains primarily a language of translation, almost always signifying the superiority of the source language. Even the popular media, digital, electronic and to some extent print, which targets and caters to the aspirational segments of the Indian population, purveys the same kind of Hindi which is a derivative of, and subsidiary to the usages of the only hegemonic language in India, i.e., English. The project of Hindi as a vehicle of nationalism, as envisaged during the freedom struggle, was over by the first decade after independence, partly due to the conflicted legacy of the freedom struggle itself, and partly because of the contradictions of post-colonial nation building.”

In 2010, the Gujarat high court made it clear that in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not the national language. That means Hindi has nothing to celebrate. It is not pointless to say that if the government has no time-bound action plan to place Hindi in the position as conceived during the freedom struggle, then it should rather start a national mission to teach everyone English. It will break the supremacy of English speaking elite and enrich our democracy.

Author: Pankaj Srivastava



Lexicography has never been so accessible

There are hundreds of dictionaries on the Internet. What I find interesting is the emergence of user-based dictionaries, which allow us to add new words with their grammatical categories. My favorites among them are bab.la and Glosbe.

I should make it clear that I am very much apprehensive about the quality of translation on these websites. However, what makes things interesting for me is the opportunity to be in touch with new words. The user interface is very easy. Another interesting aspect is that the founders of these websites are not from the Anglophone world. Glosbe and bab.la are based in Germany and Poland respectively. It is good to see that we have dictionaries which have around 7000 languages. Interestingly, Glosbe also has dictionaries for some artificial languages. And if you are not surprised enough, let me say that Glosbe has a dictionary of the extinct Ancient Greek language too!

If you have an interest in languages and lexicography, you will find the concept of user-based dictionaries very interesting. I am a native speaker of Hindi. This language is not as rich as English in terms of terminology in specialized fields. This is the reason I want to add as many words as possible to online dictionaries. This will make things easier for future generations of translators.   





My interview by Olga Arakelyan

This interview was originally posted here. I am thankful to Olga Arakelyan for this interview.

Today I am glad to recommend Suyash Suprabh, one of the best Hindi translators I know. I met Suyash back in 2010 when I was just starting blogging and networking in social media. You can connect with Suyash on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter. I have asked Suyash to share a bit about himself, and here are his replies.

1. Could you share some weird facts about you that you don't normally share in your bio? 

Sometimes I feel that I am much more passionate about my language than it is required to be a normal, successful translator. I hardly miss any opportunity to interact with Hindi writers. Sometimes I reject good projects just to participate in a cultural or language event. When I was studying German at Jawaharlal Nehru University, everyone thought that I was a Hindi student because most of my friends were from Hindi center. As they say, 'true love is always consistent'!

2. What was the best project in your career so far? 

My best project was a translation of children books for a client form my home state. I really enjoyed suggesting nuances in my language. It was really interesting to note that some synonyms cannot be used interchangeably in a particular region. I also got the chance to relive my childhood memories.

3. What was the worst project in your career?
My worst project was a translation of a book in the early phase of my career. The agency did not know anything about terminology. The work was divided among three translators and the end result was pathetic.
4. What are top 3 things you like most about being a freelance translator?

Freedom, adventure and diversity. 

5. Why do your clients love working with you?
Maybe they like my attitude and helpful nature. If I have any suggestion to make the source text better, I never hesitate to communicate it.

Dear Suyash, thank you for your honest replies! I wish you all the very best in your career.


Crowdsourcing has failed

Crowdsourcing is one of the myths propagated by big companies. It has definitely not worked for Facebook. In the example given below, the word 'email' is spelled in two different ways in Hindi:


100 Translation Blogs

Here is a list of 100 translation blogs:

1. http://patenttranslator.wordpress.com

2. http://lingocode.com/the-translators-teacup

3. http://translationjournal.blogspot.in

4. http://linguagreca.com/blog

5. http://translationmusings.com

6. http://thoughtsontranslation.com

7. http://www.translationtribulations.com

8. http://getdirectclient.blogspot.in

9. http://brave-new-words.blogspot.in

10. http://mox.ingenierotraductor.com

11. http://wordstogoodeffect.com

12. http://latitudescoachblog.com

13. http://translationbiz.wordpress.com

14. http://speakingoftranslation.com

15. http://transpanish.biz/translation_blog

16. http://nopeanuts.wordpress.com

17. http://wantwords.co.uk/martastelmaszak/blog

18. http://foxdocs.biz/BetweenTranslations

19. http://translationista.blogspot.in

20. http://thehouseoftranslation.blogspot.in

21. http://unprofessionaltranslation.blogspot.in

22. http://americlic.wordpress.com

23. http://wordstodeeds.com

24. http://signsandsymptomsoftranslation.com

25. http://www.jadelanguagesolutions.com/blog.html

26. http://www.hayles-translations.com/blog

27. http://www.catherinetranslates.com

28. http://cibliste.com

29. http://anmerkungen-des-uebersetzers.com

30. http://www.hispaniclanguages.com/blog

31. http://glossarissimo.wordpress.com

32. http://www.anaiaria.com

33. http://www.veritaslanguagesolutions.com/blog

34. http://www.mylifeintranslation.net

35. http://translationpost.com

36. http://www.adatrad.com/blog/ubersetzungsagentur-vs-ubersetzer

37. http://ata-sci-tech.blogspot.in

38. http://www.mcrobertstranslations.com/blog

39. http://blog.albatrossolutions.com

40. http://www.nakedtranslations.com/en/blog

41. http://blog.philippahammond.net

42. http://pbtranslations.wordpress.com

43. http://maskedtranslator.blogspot.in

44. http://www.aboutranslation.com

45. http://catranslation.org/blog

46. http://blog.1-800-translate.com

47. http://www.sarahdillon.com/blog

48. http://blog.fxtrans.com

49. http://blog.web-translations.com

50. http://trovarepercredere.blogspot.in

51. http://www.swedishtranslationservices.com/blog

52. http://www.translators-biz-secret.com/Translation-Jobs-blog.html

53. http://blog.tomedes.com

54. http://www.becomeatranslator.com

55. http://cdevitttranslation.wordpress.com

56. http://translatoreducator.blogspot.in

57. http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com

58. http://www.jodybyrne.com/category/blog

59. http://www.anothertranslator.eu/en

60. http://www.l10n411.com

61. http://unprofessionaltranslation.blogspot.in

62. http://ndbooks.com/blog

63. http://kv-emptypages.blogspot.in

64. http://translationtimes.blogspot.in

65. http://smuggledwords.wordpress.com

66. http://ontranslationandwords.blogspot.in

67. http://translation-blog.trustedtranslations.com

68. http://translatingberlin.wordpress.com

69. http://www.translatemyworld.com/LocalizationBestPractices

70. http://www.gts-translation.com/blog

71. http://yndigotranslations.com/blog

72. http://www.foodfortranslators.com

73. http://translationquality.blogspot.in

74. http://blog.csoftintl.com

75. http://thelanguageoftranslation.wordpress.com

76. http://traduccionmexico.blogspot.in

77. http://www.catherinetranslates.com

78. http://segnodicaino.blogspot.in

79. http://transblawg.eu

80. http://cinoche5.wordpress.com

81. http://www.blog.wahlster.net

82. http://mcdonough-dolmaya.ca

83. http://translationcommentator.blogspot.in

84. http://www.ccaps.net/blog/category/blog

85. http://www.translationblogsdigest.blogspot.in

86. http://hegenberger.blogspot.in

87. http://calquezine.blogspot.in

88. http://lori4twb.wordpress.com

89. http://dynamiclanguageblog.com

90. http://www.quicksilvertranslate.com/blog

91. http://translationandinterpretationinamerica.blogspot.in

92. http://sehablaenglish.wordpress.com

93. http://transl10n.tumblr.com

94. http://rainylondontranslations.posterous.com

95. http://wordsmeet.wordpress.com

96. http://www.translationadvisor.com/professional-translation-services-blog.html

97. http://fuckedtranslation.blogspot.in

98. http://blogproz.wordpress.com

99. http://www.wordyrama.com/category/blogorama

100. http://sjcparis.wordpress.com


10 Things Your Language School Doesn't Want You to Know

Copyright © 2011 by John Fotheringham. For more tips, tools, and tech for learning ANY Language, go to LanguageMastery.com

Language schools can be a wonderful place to learn more about your target language, meet fellow learners (who can become both study partners or even lifelong friends), and get your linguistic and cultural feet wet before (or even while) immersing yourself in a new culture and foreign tongue.

However, language schools can also be a major impediment to the very goal you go there to achieve: learning a foreign language as quickly and efficiently as possible. This may come as a shock to those who have been conditioned to believe that classrooms are the only place, or at least the best place, to learn a language.

Here are the top ten disadvantages of formal, classroom-based language learning (at least in my view):

There is an important distinction to be made between learning and schooling. Those who believe they need formal training in a language are making the false assumption that the two are one and the same. To reach fluency in a language, you need to acquire a great deal of tacit knowledge, that special kind of internalized, experience-based information that you may not be conscious of. The sad truth is that most teachers focus on explicit knowledge (e.g. facts about the language such as grammar rules), which has very little to do with one’s ability to speak a language. Explicit knowledge is easier to teach and test, however, which probably explains why it makes up the bulk of school curricula.

At some point in history, the education establishment convinced society that they needed to be “taught” languages. This was quite an amazing feat considering that all human beings are endowed by evolution (or God if you prefer) with the ability to automatically acquire any language they hear in adequate quantities. The problem for most learners (and the reason they buy into the “I need more schooling!” mentality) is that they never get an “adequate quantity” of language input. The irony is that this input deficiency is often caused by the very classes that are supposed to provide it. With a focus on memorizing grammar rules, most learners end up spending the vast majority of their time learning about a language instead of actually learningthe language itself.

Ideally, formalized testing and grading systems motivate students by providing competition and objective feedback. In reality, however, most grading is far from objective (teachers tend to reward students they like and penalize those they don’t), and tests do little more than demonstrate one’s ability to memorize facts. Feedback is important, but it needn’t be in the form of traditional testing or grades. Ask your teachers to evaluate your performance by giving specific examples of things you said right or wrong, not with multiple choice tests.

The bigger the class, the wider the range of abilities, and the slower the class will have to go. Schools know that students are more likely to stick with something too easy but will quickly throw in the towel if something is too difficult. And despite placement tests and numerous class levels, it can be very difficult to appropriately group students by their actual skill in the language. With finite time slots mutually convenient for all students in a given group, some students will inevitably be placed in classes that are above or below their actual ability level. Also, placement tests come with the same problems mentioned in # 3: they test one’s memory and knowledge (especially of the written word).

Teachers often have students read out loud to allegedly “practice pronunciation.” The truth is that your pronunciation improves only from massive amounts of listening input and speaking output. Reading aloud does little more than show what words you are unfamiliar with and often reinforces mispronunciations instead of fixing them. While some teachers genuinely believe in the read aloud method, others just use it as a zero prep activity to count down the clock.

Just as reading aloud does not improve your pronunciation or reading skills, oral drills do little for your speaking fluency. We improve our speaking ability through increasing the quantity and quality of listening input (e.g. podcasts about your favorite topics), and then applying what we have heard in natural, contextualized conversations.

This is all about business. Schools make more money when you buy new books, take level tests and re-enroll in more classes.

Teachers hate writing progress reports. They are usually an exercise in creative writing, not meaningful feedback on your actual performance and progress in the language. Not knowing what to say (and not wanting to waste time on a task they don’t get paid for!), many teachers will just cut and paste canned comments, or come up with general, vague statements and overly technical descriptions of your grammar and pronunciation problems.

Despite being widely used, standardized textbooks are bad tools for a number of reasons. They build on the myth that schooling equals learning, as discussed in # 1 above. They lull students into a false sense of accomplishment, where completion of chapters is confused with actual internalization of the content. And with content written not to entertain but to avoid offending anyone, they are typically boring and sterile. Interest in the material is essential for effective language learning, so make sure to choose schools or teachers that allow you to choose materials that float your boat.

If you like the language you are learning, believe you can learn it, and get as much listening and reading input as possible, you will learn the language well enough to communicate in a matter of 6 months to a year. Most students, however, end up paying tuition for years and years despite a lack of progress. Students blame themselves (backed up by the bogus comments found in their progress reports), not realizing that the problem lies not in them, but with their school’s materials and methodologies.