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Languages and dialects die every day in some or other part of the world. With globalization people are required to know more languages other than their native one. For common people, it is difficult to properly learn more than one language. With emerging influence of English in Indian subcontinent, regional languages have taken a backseat. Knowledge of English was established as a major qualification long ago. They used to crack jokes at parents bragging about their children not knowing the native language, but only English. The blame goes to the ‘necessity’ first created by the British rule of over 400 years. Now, the factors are globalization, facebook, g-mail, movies, cartoons, etc.

Burdened with the ‘need’ to give first priority to English, parents started neglecting their wards’ study of native language. When there are less takers, government went by the public mood and included most native languages in Modern Indian Language (MIL) category. This gives option to students choose between ‘Alternative English’ and any of the native language. English already being a compulsory subject, most students in English medium schools go for Alternative English. Although late, this is what Meghalaya School Board of Education (MBoSE) is also going to implement. Khasi scholars and many local nationalistic organisations have slammed the MBoSE for such ‘derecognisation’ of Khasi by making it an optional subject. The question is how justified is their demand to keep Khasi a compulsory subject?

Call it a process of nature or impact of globalisation, no language or dialect remains forever. It’s all about the need. The main language of Meghalaya’s neighbour Assam, Assamese, is rated 68th most spoken language in the world. There was a time when the Assamese dialect of eastern Assam was totally unintelligible in western or middle part of the state. With increased communication between the people and influence of media, the gap has reduced and most people tend to speak the written form of the language. The automatic standardisation makes many people miss their respective native words and tones of speaking the Assamese language. Besides, the language like any other Indian language is facing the threat being overwhelmed by English. No doubt, the government move to make native languages optional subject is not a very good signal for those languages. But it is also doubtful whether most students would be happy if Khasi is made mandatory, which would force them to learn at least two languages among six-seven subjects. After all, knowledge is supreme and language is just a medium to attain knowledge.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 7, 2014)

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