Multilingualism: a Metonym for Biological Diversity

Language is a system of communication that helps in configuring our thoughts, ideas and perceptions. India being a multilingual country very well signifies its biological and cultural diversity. A child in India gets exposure to many languages in his surroundings and the speed with which a child gets acquainted to so many different languages without any special efforts or formal education shows that human beings are born with the innate capacity to learn languages. The learning of a language is socio- culturally mediated and mushrooms very well with the cultural diversity. A child in India gets exposure to many languages in his surroundings and the speed with which a child gets acquainted to so many different languages without any special efforts or formal education shows that human beings are born with the innate capacity to learn languages. The learning of a language is socio- culturally mediated and mushrooms very well with the cultural and biological diversity of India. Although we are born with innate capacity to learn languages still so far we have not tried to tap this innate capacity of an individual and we restrict to the language learning of a child in a very formal manner which is very much rule governed where as in reality the language learning can never take place in a rule governed environment.

The fundamental characteristics of language as put forward by Subhashini Rajasekaran and Rajesh Kumar in their paper titled, ‘Challenges and Strategies for Multilingual Education in India’ are:

  1. Languages are porus, fluid and continuously evolving systems that human beings acquire and change to define themselves and the world around them.
  2. Multilinguality is a norm, not an exception. It is constitutive of being human.

Human beings have the innate capacity of developing in the, ‘linguistic repertoire’ which helps them to get engaged in multilingual languages and to switch easily between language systems possessing common and unique characteristics.

These two fundamental characteristics of the language that is being porus and Multilinguality helps the languages to be constantly evolved, interacting and being dynamic. These features also help in maximizing the communicative potential of an individual. The child in his formative years of development maximizes his communicative potential and can very easily understand and communicate in the language of his neighbourhood but as soon as he enters formal school system his language learning process gets a set back and is made to learn a language in a formal setting which is quite often text book oriented and is also expected to use the ‘pure’ form of the language which in reality does not exist and is quite often abbreviated for a language which is no more living and further has no scope of being used.

The language the child learns from his home and neighbourhood not only helps in the cognitive growth of the child but cognitively advanced proficiency gets transferred across the languages. One of the major reasons of drop out rate in India is that the schools are unable to relate to the languages that the child has learnt from their home and neighbourhood.

The following measures should be incorporated in order to enhance the Linguistic Diversity:

  1. Teaching in mother tongue should be emphasised and teachers’ should be trained in such a manner that they are in a capacity to maximize the utilization of linguistic diversity of the classroom and should change their mindsets of not restricting themselves to the pure form of a language.
  2. Public Awareness needs to be generated supported by evidence based empirical studies which suggest that high co relationship exist between Multilingualism and Higher Scholastic Achievement thus helping in reducing the gap that exists among public related to multilingualism.
  3. Higher Education System should support the concept of Multilingualism and should not act as a block in its implementation.
  4. Teacher training and recruitment as of now is based on the ability to use medium of instructions rather it should be upgraded to translanguaging.
  5. Teachers must be made aware about the possibilities of using multilingual pedagogic methods and should work towards leveraging the strength of Multilingualism in the classroom which enhances the scholastic achievement, divergent thinking, cognitive flexibility and social tolerance among the students.

Thus we can conclude by saying that in the globalized and technological world we cannot restrict ourselves to the fuzzy and fluid language boundaries and Multilingualism is a Metonym for Biological Diversity in this global village.

References:
http://www.ncert.nic.in/new_ncert/ncert/rightside/links/pdf/focus_group/Indian_Languages.pdf
http://www.fortell.org/content/challenges-and-strategies-multilingual-education-india