Monday, 19 March 2012

Ask expatriates to contribute to Indian language Wikipedias

An Indian esperantist Giridhar Rao reports (in Esperanto) a suggestion that came out during the visit of a Wikipedia Foundation member to Delhi for a meeting. There the host(?) suggested asking expatriate Indians to contribute to Wikipedia in Indian languages other than English. The person who suggested this thinks they will be suitable to ameliorate local language Wikipedias because of their "nostalgia" and the diligence they show learning their "mother tongue."

Those attending the meeting also discussed the problems they have to face in finding young Indians who can "read and write fluently in Indian languages." Looking for reasons they appear to come to the conclusion that the use of English as a medium of instruction is at the root of the problem. This, a Tamil Wikipedia contributor said, creates a situation in which students are "neither good at expressing themselves in the local language nor in English."

He is right. This is indeed the situation in India. Most youngsters can't even recite the alphabet of their local language in order, their grip on the script is weak, they increasingly always write in Roman characters and invariably all of them are "fluent" in English but have some "hesitation" expressing themselves (= have poor English).

The problem is there but the solution is not to go to the NRIs crying for HELP! There has to be a right diagnosis if we are to weed out the problem. They should understand that:
  1. An average Indian doesn't speak even one language fluently is an indication of the dismal state of our antiquated, inefficient and ineffective education system. It is not because of teaching local languages as a subject and using English as the medium of instruction. We can learn from Singapore. And, 
  2. Spending scare resources on attracting NRIs at the expense of raising awareness at home isn't going to be a productive strategy.
In the next post I will try to analyse why Indians don't contribute to the Wikipedia, and perhaps propose some "indigenous" solutions!