Hindi &c.

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at giasbg01.vsnl.net.in
Thu Nov 28 15:13:05 UTC 1996

(In reply to L.M. Fosse, writing to S. Kichenassamy)

lf> No, we are speaking about languages helpful to various categories
lf> of people who for some reason would like to master an Indic
lf> language: Scholars wanting to communicate with Indians who are
lf> unable to speak English (about 97% of the Indian population),

What was the title of that book? "How To Lie With Statistics"?... Are
you going to speak with 97% of the Indian population? In Hindi?

The question is not: "how many Indians do not speak English?" (what is
the criterion of that 97%, by the way?) but: "is Hindi really as useful
all over India as the Hindiwallahs arguing in INDOLOGY pretend it is?"

lf> but if you are
lf> not connected with a certain Indian region, you would want to learn
lf> the language that will get you further than the others.

Some of us who are not in the high ivory tower of 'High Hindi' studies
but who have first-hand, on-the-ground experience of speaking with
people in various parts of India (Cejka, Menon, Kichenassamy, Beeharry,
myself) have already dismissed the idea that Hindi is so useful.

A scholar who depends on Hindi when s/he works on any subject outside
the so-called 'Hindi belt' is not serious and should be laughed away.
And even within that belt, Hindi is a thing of limited value (cf.
Beeharry and myself).

lf> business men or others (even tourists!) who might want to do the
lf> same thing, or simply be able to read Indian newspapers or
lf> documents that are not written in English.

Which "newspapers and documents"? Where?

lf> I am convinced that if we are unable to offer "society" something
lf> which society thinks is "useful" (in the very limited and slightly
lf> imbecile way the word is used by politicians and business people),

Hm, I thought that it is the task of academicians and intellectuals to
eradicate imbecility, rather than to cater to it. The quality of
communication (what we have termed "intelligent conversation" etc.) _is_
a matter of concern here. If we discard the question of quality
altogether, then why should we study ANY modern Indian language? Just go
to India and speak *English*, or use your hands and feet... (And English
and hands and feet are more useful than Hindi in several parts, when it
comes to the most primitive communication with the average
man-in-the-street - maybe most of your 97%.)

lf> Since funds are limited, funders will probably ask the following
lf> questions: [...] It is easier to argue in favour of
lf> Hindi/Urdu than in favour of any other Indic language.

Aha, now we are getting to the core. Some of us are
talking about things like Indology, intercultural communication,
understanding of our fellow humans, etc. But you are in it for the
money! Why don't you begin a law firm, or go into the computer business?
(Shame on you, Lars. You could have saved us a lot of effort.)

lf> we shall not be able to preserve the values of free study and
lf> thought that we all cherish.

This is precisely not the case, as I mentioned at the beginning of this
thread. The status quo favours Hindi and little else, so the argument
does not stand.

lf> Here statistics matter. Sorry.

This has already  been dealt with. It's easy to lie with statistics.


More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list