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Hindi Diwas: Hindi’s place in India

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By Manas Dwivedi

A newborn does not learn a dialect from its mother’s womb. The first knowledge of language any infant gathers is from its parents, in the form of some loving words. In India, most kids hear these words in Hindi. Thus, Hindi words could very well be among the first sounds that a person hears in India.

Language, on a global level, carries a significant importance in examining a nation’s history, culture and heritage. Likewise, Hindi is a vital part of India. A language of honour, dignity and pride, Hindi has given us a unique identity in the world.

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Hindi, being the mother-tongue of majority of Indians works at binding all Hindustanis together. Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi also said that Hindi is the ‘language of the masses’. Renowned writer Amir Khusrau used to emote in elementary Hindi. Thousands of other writers too made Hindi their Karmabhomi. But unfortunately, the language, which freedom fighters also believed to be a cause of pride for them, is still only the official language of the country and not the national language of India. Hindi is still fighting for its existence, as many believe.

As to how Hindi emerged as a prominent language in secular India is an interesting story. Following the history on Hindi, India’s Constitution declared Hindi as the official language of India on September 14, 1949.  Chapter 17 in Section 343 of the Indian Constitution, part (1), describes Hindi, in the Devnagri script, as the official language of the Union that should be used for its official purposes in the form of an international edition.

Further, upon the Campaign Committee’s suggestions in 1953, September 14 was declared as ‘Hindi Diwas’ in the name of promoting the language in Hindi speaking regions of India every year.

But is it justified to term such a popular language as just an official language? Why can’t Hindi be the national language of India? Different time periods showed different reasons for the issue, most of which were politically motivated.

Long back, during India’s struggle for independence, Mahatma Gandhi first voiced for making Hindi the national language of the country. Chairing the Hindi literature conference in 1918, Gandhi talked about his dream of seeing Hindi as the national language. But in the name of power and politics, Gandhi’s dream was never fulfilled.

Indian Renaissance featuring great leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshab Chandra Sen and Maharishi Dayanand recalled the importance of Hindi and also completed most of their literary works in the same language. They were avidly supporting Hindi at that time.

Later in the freedom struggle post 1925, Hindi has played a special role in uniting Indians together. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore although being a Bangla scholar insisted the country’s revolutionaries to use Hindi for communicating with the masses. This shows the effect of Hindi on India at that period of time.

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But when India became independent in 1947, Hindi itself became a controversial topic. There were several groups like Kazhagam (Dravidar Kazhagam), Periyar, and DMK who opposed Hindi’s use nationally. There were even several protests in Tamil Nadu and other southern parts of the country against making Hindi the national language. Various groups marked October 13, 1957 as ‘Anti-Hindi Day’.

Lal Bahadur Shastri, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Morarji Desai and several other leaders desired to support Hindi, but their wish remained suppressed after the agitation and riots in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Soon after the demise of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri opted to stick with both Hindi and English as the official languages and  decided not to name any national language.

By the time Hindi was declared the official language for the first time in 1949, it was decided that Hindi will be the only official language of the Indian Union after the government’s tenure of 15 years. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had also constituted the ‘Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha’ for promoting Hindi in southern parts of the nation. But all such attempts severely failed when the Tamils denied to accepting Hindi as the national language in 1965. Under strong political pressure, the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri agreed on restricting Hindi to just the official language along with English.

Hindi was restricted from achieving its rightful place due to politics in the name of caste and language by certain politicians. Fragments of leftover western culture were given a more concrete shape by corporate strategies, which left Hindi as just a language of informal communication. Today, such is the mind-set of the masses that many assume people who use their mother tongue to be less educated and less adept at socializing as they do not have an adequate knowledge of English.

Above all, Hindi boasts of a glorious history and the possibility of a bright future. We just need to assure Hindi’s existence in this rapidly changing global scenario. Apart from India, Hindi is spoken and used in various other part of the world as well; but we should never forget its roots. A language like Hindi needs global recognition. This doesn’t pertain to any competition with English, but proclaims the fact that Hindi should be acclaimed and garner fame on the basis of being a wonderfully rich language and not only because the majority of Indians speak Hindi. So let’s start the wave today. Jai Hind Jai Hindi.

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Facebook Adds A New Language, Inupiaq From North of Alaska

Translator Muriel Hopson said finding the right translation ultimately could require two or three Inupiaq words.

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Irish watchdog opens inquiry into latest Facebook privacy breach. Pixabay

Britt’Nee Brower grew up in a largely Inupiat Eskimo town in Alaska’s far north, but English was the only language spoken at home.

Today, she knows a smattering of Inupiaq from childhood language classes at the school in the community of Utqiagvik. Brower even published an Inupiaq coloring book last year featuring the names of common animals of the region. But she hopes to someday speak fluently by practicing her ancestral language in a daily, modern setting.

The 29-year-old Anchorage woman has started to do just that with a new Inupiaq language option that recently went live on Facebook for those who employ the social media giant’s community translation tool. Launched a decade ago, the tool has allowed users to translate bookmarks, action buttons and other functions in more than 100 languages around the globe.

For now, Facebook is being translated into Inupiaq only on its website, not its app.

“I was excited,” Brower says of her first time trying the feature, still a work in progress as Inupiaq words are slowly added. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to have to bring out my Inupiaq dictionary so I can learn.’ So I did.”

Facebook users can submit requests to translate the site’s vast interface workings — the buttons that allow users to like, comment and navigate the site — into any language through crowdsourcing. With the interface tool, it’s the Facebook users who do the translating of words and short phrases. Words are confirmed through crowd up-and-down voting.

 

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Britt’Nee Brower shows an Inupiat coloring book she published and she talks about the new Inupiat Eskimo language option now available for Facebook bookmarks, action buttons. Alaskans made the option a reality through the social media giant’s community translation tool, Anchorage, Alaska. VOA

 

Besides the Inupiaq option, Cherokee and Canada’s Inuktitut are other indigenous languages in the process of being translated, according to Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Argyres.

“It’s important to have these indigenous languages on the internet. Oftentimes they’re nowhere to be found,” she said. “So much is carried through language — tradition, culture — and so in the digital world, being able to translate from that environment is really important.”

The Inupiaq language is spoken in northern Alaska and the Seward Peninsula. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, about 13,500 Inupiat live in the state, with about 3,000 speaking the language.

Myles Creed, who grew up in the Inupiat community of Kotzebue, was the driving force in getting Inupiaq added. After researching ways to possibly link an external translation app with Facebook, he reached out to Grant Magdanz, a hometown friend who works as a software engineer in San Francisco. Neither one of them knew about the translation tool when Magdanz contacted Facebook in late 2016 about setting up an Inupiatun option.

Facebook opened a translation portal for the language in March 2017. It was then up to users to provide the translations through crowdsourcing.

Creed, 29, a linguistics graduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, is not Inupiat, and neither is Magdanz, 24. But they grew up around the language and its people and wanted to promote its use for today’s world.

“I’ve been given so much by the community I grew up in, and I want to be able to give back in some way,” said Creed, who is learning Inupiaq.

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Phrases From The Language. Flickr

Both see the Facebook option as a small step against predictions that Alaska’s Native languages are heading toward extinction under their present rate of decline.

“It has to be part of everyone’s daily life. It can’t be this separate thing,” Magdanz said. “People need the ability to speak it in any medium that they use like they would English or Spanish.”

Initially, Creed relied on volunteer translators, but that didn’t go fast enough. In January, he won a $2,000 mini-grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum to hire two fluent Inupiat translators. While a language is in the process of being translated, only those who use the translation tool are able to see it.

Creed changed his translation settings last year. But it was only weeks ago that his home button finally said “Aimaagvik,” Inupiaq for home.

“I was really ecstatic,” he said.

So far, only a fraction of the vast interface is in Inupiaq. Part of the holdup is the complexity of finding exact translations, according to the Inupiaq translators who were hired with the grant money.

Take the comment button, which is still in English. There’s no one-word-fits-all in Inupiaq for “comment,” according to translator Pausauraq Jana Harcharek, who heads Inupiaq education for Alaska’s North Slope Borough. Is the word being presented in the form of a question, or a statement or an exclamatory sentence?

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An Inupiat Boy. Flickr

“Sometimes it’s so difficult to go from concepts that don’t exist in the language to arriving at a translation that communicates what that particular English word might mean,” Harcharek said.

Translator Muriel Hopson said finding the right translation ultimately could require two or three Inupiaq words.

The 58-year-old Anchorage woman grew up in the village of Wainwright, where she was raised by her grandparents. Inupiaq was spoken in the home, but it was strictly prohibited at the village school run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Hopson said.

Also Read: AI at Facebook Improves Urdu to English Translation

She wonders if she’s among the last generation of Inupiaq speakers. But she welcomes the new Facebook option as a promising way for young people to see the value Inupiaq brings as a living language.

“Who doesn’t have a Facebook account when you’re a millennial?” she said. “It can only help.” (VOA)