I just returned from a couple of weeks of sojourn in Indonesia and Malaysia. One of the tasks I had in Malaysia was to address the members of the ‘Telugu Association of Malaysia’ on the issue of ‘Financial Sustainability of Families’ speaking in the language of Telugu, my mother tongue. The venue was ‘Telugu Academy’ near Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian Telugus are striving to keep the language, the customs and the rituals of the Telugus alive in Malaysia though they have left the country long ago and most of whom are now citizens of Malaysia. They have constructed the Telugu Academy to propagate the language, the customs and traditions. The building accommodates over 400 students at a time - all, for the love of the language of Telugu.
“The current population of Malaysian Telugus are mostly third and fourth generation Telugus who arrived in the 19th and early 20th century” (Kwen Fee Lian, Md Mizanur Rahman & Yabit bin Alas, ed. (2015). International Migration in Southeast Asia: Continuities and Discontinuities. Springer. p. 119. ISBN 98-128-7712-6 & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_Telugu).
I know of many other Telugus who have left the Telugu speaking states in India to foreign countries, like central Asia, Africa, Mauritius and USA who are striving to upkeep the language and traditions.
I, myself, am a second generation Telugu speaking person whose family settled in the neighbouring state over six decades ago. All of us, in our family, including my siblings and our children, who are now third generation, speak near impeccable Telugu. Many a time, I proudly say, with confidence, that we can go back to our native state and teach Telugu to most of the people there.
When I returned to India from my sojourn and started catching up with the news papers (of those days when I was in abroad), two news items grabbed my attention.
The first one is about the Government Order (G.O.) passed by the Andhra Pradesh government that henceforth all government schools in the state will offer education to students 1st till 8th standard only through English Medium, with Telugu just as a subject. It was later reconsidered to offer the same from 1st to 6th standard, instead. Apparently, the government has concluded that eventually all children of the state like to and will have to be English speaking and by doing this, the government schools in the state can compete with the burgeoning private schools there.
Hmm… the issues here are; i) has the government decided that all the future citizens of the state will have to necessarily go for only servitude to work in offices? and 2) what will happen to those students passing out of 6th standard in English medium of learning, if by that time the government schools will not be in a position to offer the same from 7th standard onwards?
The sub issues are: a) is it not the government’s priority to encourage skill building and entrepreneurship rather than just make them learn everything only in English? b) are there sufficient teachers to teach all subjects in English, qualitatively? c) if so, does the government have time to recruit all such teachers before the system is adapted? d) what happens when the government changes? e) are they jeopardising the future of the children by such experiments?
Hope that the government has taken care of all these issue before rolling out the action.
My own personal experience says that, most regretfully, in both the Telugu speaking states, people who can speak good Telugu itself are in minority and perhaps are in single digits as a percentage. The various TV channels ensured the swift degeneration. Qualitative English knowledge is suspect.
But then yes, we the Telugus, for long, have had a great love for speaking languages ‘alien’ and ‘foreign’ to us just to prove our ‘prowess’ in those languages, especially in English, many a time leading to ridiculous and lugubriously hilarious situations.
A couple of years ago I was having lunch in a ‘popular’ restaurant in Vijayawada, considered to be a bastion of the Telugu language. During the course of my lunch, I had asked for ‘Pulusu’ the Telugu near equivalent of ‘Sambar’ or a ‘lentil soup with many vegetables’ to be served and the lady serving apparently didn’t understand it and said that she has only ‘Sambar’. After completing that course with ‘Sambar’, for the next course, I asked for ‘Chaaru’ which is the Telugu equivalent of ‘Rasam’, again a form of a thin ‘soup’ with herbs and spices, so to say (The etymology of ‘Chaaru’ in this context is the Dravidian word ‘Saaru’ meaning the ‘Essence’ – the Sanskrit work ‘Ark’ is nearer to it when you take the meaning of a medicinal salve or juice extracted from a plant to apply to open wounds). The lady couldn’t take it anymore and loudly called for the supervisor complaining against me saying that I have been asking her all those things that they don’t serve in the restaurant.
She had no problem in serving me ‘white rice’ though.
This anecdote is mentioned here to showcase how the Telugu language is losing fast. In fact, there is a dire need for the government to ensure that the language classified as a classic language doesn’t get murdered and shall live in its full glory.
If one loves languages, one understands how degenerative our generations are becoming in learning languages. I hasten to add that this may not apply to learning computer languages though, which our people now learn with a penchant.
The second news item that interested me much, around the same time, was from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, where the Tamil vocabulary is being added with 9,000 new words (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-to-get-9000-new-words/article29919044.ece).
Here’s a case of Governments of two states - adjacent to each other; one trying its best to keep their language alive and nourish it and the other whose orders are promoting a foreign language and seemingly paving way for the slow death of its language; and around the same time too.
And then there are those, struggling to upkeep the Telugu language, the Telugu customs and traditions even while living in foreign lands and under foreign flags – What a contrast!
So will this new order be paving way for ‘Andhra’ Pradesh to become ‘Angla’ Pradesh? (‘Angla’ in Telugu means English)! Pray tell me!
Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).
Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy