Thursday, April 30, 2009

English's position among Indian languages.

I no more use any standalone transliteration software to type Malayalam. To post in this blog in Malayalam, I type it in gmail, using gmail's transliteration, and send it as an email to the blog. Its really easy this way. I also changed my display language in gmail to Malayalam (might or might not revert back, because I am more used to using English words for certain words associated with particular functionalities in Computers and Technology (like "delete" than "ഉപേക്ഷിക്കുക")

When we talk about whether English should continue to get the position it has in the linguistics of the country (it is one of the two main official languages), especially when people like Mulayam Singh and his Samajwadi Party did in their recent Election Manifesto, or some RSS Swadesi fellow or a simple Hindu chauvinist (with bad English?) talk about replacing English with Hindi, we hear arguments like: "In this modern world, of Computers and IT, how are you possibly going to live with Hindi? You are taking us backwards, into the 19th century". This comes from politicians, TV journalists, and many other people, even Hindi people).

Technology is going to make this a poor, shallow argument. Most of the popular things in the Internet can be done in major languages (google, gmail, Office, even OS (like the GUI of linux: KDE), are available in Malayalam). This is soon going to be much more pervasive, and more error-free. Google currently supports translations to and from Hindi, and hopefully will soon support other Indic languages. Its not tough to write an add-on in Firefox that will automatically translate every single web page in English that is loaded to Hindi, and vice-versa. When we come to filling forms, or writing a computer program, we will have to go with the way these are designed to be done, but this requires no great knowledge of English, as the great German, French and the Russian programmers (among others) have demonstrated. And technology might change this as well. So much research is going into Natural Language Processing, Speech processing and Machine Learning in the area of languages. Ten years later, the field will be revolutionised for sure. Unless, may be, if you are working in a call center :-) (which can also be impacted).

There are much better reasons to go for English above Hindi , or consider them equal. Even these might be challenged by technology - albeit slowly, and may be we will be able to get rid of English by massively making use of language softwares so that the purposes of a common language can be met (will that be useful?), but in any case, our Hindi journalists are not going to like the reasons or results :-)

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