Why can’t we make Hindi the sole official language of India to develop a unique identity?

polity : Why-cant-we-make-Hindi-the-sole-official-language-of-India-to-develop-a-unique-identity -3

Answer by Peter Pudaite:

As much as the idea seems reasonable on the face of it, there are several issues with it.

The main one is, the misconception that multi-ethnic countries need a common language to bring them together. You name lots of examples of languages spoken by other countries but you fail to understand how English still plays a role in those countries. Let's look at some of the ones you highlighted:

Belgium: Belgium has three official languages, French, Dutch and German. These are spoken in different regions of Belgium depending on the ethnic mix. So those in the south, French, the north Dutch (actually Flemish) and German in the East. You know what the main second language is? English.

Switzerland: There are four official languages, French, German, Italian and Romansh. This represents the different ethnic mixes of the cantons the form Switzerland. If you speak French in the German regions, don't be surprised for the locals to look at you in disdain. Safer to speak…. English.

Eastern European & former USSR countries: Eastern European countries were in effect colonised by the USSR which either imposed Russian as the second language or it was the de facto language to conduct trans national business. So it's not a surprise that Russian still remains common. Where people chose to learn a 3rd language it was often German as this was one of the more prosperous regions behind the Iron Curtain. However since the disintegration of the USSR, most young Eastern European students prefer to learn…. English.

China: Despite outwards appearances, China is not a cohesive mono lingual, mono ethnic country. In fact there is no such language as Chinese, there is Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, etc. If you want to get technical go here List of varieties of Chinese. One thing they do share is the same writing so at least written communication is simplified. Indigenous languages are also spoken in the western regions of China, (Tibet being an example) but Mandarin is imposed.

UK:  Home of the English language. And the Welsh, Scottish and Irish speak English because it was historically imposed on them. The English government that controlled Scotland, Ireland and Wales forced it on the local population. No one agreed to use English as a common language. The people in power dictated it. There has been a resurgence of the local languages in the last couple of decades and if you've ever been to Wales its a national pride to speak in Welsh in many regions. It's possible to conduct all your business in Welsh if you wish. People choose to learn English as a practical choice not out of any sense of British identity.

Notice a trend here? The first language is always the indigenous one, the second one is either one the government imposes or one that the local population believes will give the greatest future prospects or is ethnically neutral. Given that India is a federal democracy and not an autocracy, the central government can and should never impose a common language.

Another issue is of ethnic/cultural identity. The nation of India is a federation of states which broadly have their own culture, language and ethnicity, in some cases multiple. Whether they learn Hindi or English as a second language, it's still that a second language. If you had to choose a language one that gave you global access or one that limits you to one country, however large, which one would make most sense?

Given that there are so many distinct cultural identities and rivalry why choose a language that has ethnic connotations? You say Hindi is ours, it not ours, its yours. I speak my own language first. What gives your language any more priority over mine?

As far as your argument, that Hindi will unite us. We don't need to have a common language to unite us. We're united in our diversity. We don't need to be the same religion, the same culture, the same language to be a united country. This kind of thinking in fact keeps us apart. When we cannot respect each other for each others uniqueness at an individual level or at a community level it creates the kind of racial tensions we see today in India.

A common respect for each other is what is needed to really unite India not a common language.

Why can't we make Hindi the sole official language of India to develop a unique identity?

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