CHENNAI: A group of students — the ‘Little Goethe’— march to the stage with lanterns, chanting in German, hosting a quiz and singing songs. The Indian audience laughs at the jokes and answers the questions in German.
As the Sanskrit versus German debate as third language goes on at the Kendriya Vidyalaya, scrapping the subject midway through the year, teachers and students celebrated 100 years of German language in India at the Chennai’s own Goethe Institut with enthusiasm.
“It is a paradoxical time for this event, with a crisis to be dealt with in the stamp of authority that has come upon our subject,” said Pramod Talgeri, president of an Indo-German teachers’ association, InDaf. With multilingualism, no Indian language could develop to a superlative extent, and Urdu remains the only language where a doctoral degree could be given.
But this multilingualism can be channelised in a good way, believes Talgeri, where languages like German become new ways of looking at ideas. Although the ‘authority’ is not keen on German, this can still be a ‘tolerable hindrance’ feels Shreesh Chowdhury, linguistics professor from IIT-Madras.
The demand, as Goethe Institut director Helmut Schippert says, is only going up every day. “Schools and students create the demand, this could be considered a ‘market’ in terms of economy or ‘democracy’ on a social level,” says Schippert.
“Languages should be for cultural learning, and in the age of globalisation and hybridisation, why do we speak of ‘other’ cultures as if they are alien?” he asks.
Although Indians are insecure of our own languages dying out, the German enthusiasts do not believe that stamping out this ‘other’ is the way to retain what was ours.