????Cash Cows for Hindi teachers?????

pventhb at xs4all.nl pventhb at xs4all.nl
Tue Nov 12 10:46:58 UTC 1996

>I could not agree more:
>>>  The young scholar should be sure to have
>    a "cash" language that he or she can teach. <<< (B.Hueckstedt)
>Precisely because of this --- and also because <useful secondary>
>literature exists in modern S.Asian languages --- I have been insisting,
>and we have made it, at long last and not without resistance, a
>requirement in our first new graduate study program (since the provisional
>one of '84!): 
>-- that students also learn Hindi/Urdu or another modern S. Asian language. 
>M. Witzel
>Sanskrit & Indian Studies
>Harvard U.
Dear Indology-valas,

jehim. mAraga pam.d.ita gae teI gaI bahIra
aughat.a ghAt.I rAm.ma kI tihim. car.hi rahA kabIra

The pundits have taken the path that the crowds have been following,
Kabir has climbed the inaccessible pass of Ram and dwells there.

(Kabir sakhi 20.4)

The business of "cash" languages makes this sUtra on career-perspectives
even more depressing. Hindi and Urdu language and  literature is a field of
specialised scholarly research. Teaching Hindi and Urdu by graduates as a
side-show to their "real" scholarly work is a poor substitute for having a
specialist scholar in these fields. Academic institutes that go for this are
unaware of the amount of good scholarship that is around in the field of
pre-modern and modern Indian culture and are providing a poor service to
their students by hiring someone who does it only for earning "cash".
Understand me correctly, it is not my opinion that Sanskritists can not be
good Hindi teachers - on the contrary - there are some very good ones around
but only because they developed the skills of a dedicated scholar in that
field in the way of intimate knowledge of the various phases of
NIA-languages, Hindi literature, Indian Islam, Persian and Arabic, for
teaching Sufi poetry and Urdu. I am trained as Indologist with a serious
amount of Sanskrit, yet I would hesitate that to claim that I can teach
Sanskrit at anything but the most elementary level. My field (as you might
have guessed) is medieval Hindi - bhakti and Sufi poetry - and from that
perspective I regard teaching living languages at any academic level as a
serious scholarly discipline.

"Cash" is a nice and sometimes even necessary thing to have around, but is
this the way to do it?. Besides, the knowledge of Hebrew a "solid" scholar
of Semitic languages has is of a high academic level which goes far beyond
what can be picked up in some quick courses in Hindi, let alone Urdu. The
kind of cross-discipline teaching Porf Leslau referred is not uncommon among
scholars of Middle Eastern languages and can sometimes breed excellent
broad-minded scholars but takes dedication and a resolve to reach the level
of specialist scholars in the concerning fields.

Please, let's take our own discipline serious and not sell out too easily to
anyone who rattles with a bundle of "cash". Creating jobs in this field
takes a positive and active approach and is difficult enough even then.

Thomas de Bruijn

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