“Ich weiß es nicht “, sagte das kind zu seiner mutter, als er gefragt wurde, ob er wisse, wo seine mutter geldbeutel gegangen ist. Die mutter antwortete, “lüge micht nicht an”. We’re pretty sure that you may have not quite understood what the conversation was all about. That’s what German sounds like, or to be more specific, what any language sounds like when it is spoken or heard for the first time. Nelson Mandela has himself quoted “If you talk to a man in a language that he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Guess, the first few sentences wouldn’t have gone anywhere, right? That’s the beauty of languages. They may not be understood by all, but they have the ability to convey deep messages without even trying too hard, very similar to a shy guy who doesn’t know that his mouth exists when he talks to the girl of his dreams, but in the end gets his message across through much subtler methods.
There have been various theories behind the creation of languages. Let’s skip the research part and move directly to what matters – the various families of languages from which modern-day languages have evolved. Many of today’s languages have evolved from a more primordial form, which can easily be traced by the presence of common words in those languages. For example, consider the presence of some words, like water in English. Its German equivalent is wasser, the Danish equivalent is vand and the Russian equivalent is voda. Each word sound very similar and also have the same meaning, which is a clear indication that they belong to the same family, and in fact, they do belong to the Indo-European family, but belong to different branches. For example, English, German and Danish belong to the Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, whereas Russian belongs to the Slavic branch.
In order to explore how the world is, it is imperative to have an open mind set and an unquenched thirst for adventure and life-long experiences. The world currently has 7 billion people, speaking about 6500 languages. As one learns a new language, one gets to feel the very soul of it. Each language has its own story, and learning a language shows us the way it adopted by which it has survived in this world.
Let’s move onto our very own Indian sub-continent, having a plethora of disparate languages, which are often spoken in even more divergent dialects. Languages in India have been shaped by years of cultural differences, regional conflicts and even war. Each language has been moulded by its own history which together with all the other languages paints the portrait of our nation.
The various languages spoken in the country can be further split along two broader branches – the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian branches. The former is a subdivision of the Indo-European language family and is spoken by 70% of the Indians mostly in North India whereas the Dravidian languages are only spoken by 22% of the population and are predominant in the South. Both these language sets complement each other by borrowing words and grammatical tenets from each other.
According to Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages.
Being the land of languages, most Indians are bilingual and many can speak three or more languages. Language is one aspect that holds our culturally diverse country together. They are the multi-hued threads that bind together our history, culture, beliefs and traditions into the fabric that is- India.
– An Article by Aishwarya Nair and Ravi Ramesh.