Deshbandhu College is the only college at the University of Delhi where B.A. programme students can opt for the Sindhi language as one of their subjects.
The college had five students who opted for this subject in the previous session, which has now quickly transgressed to a record low of zero. The administration believes the lack of concessions during the online course admissions were responsible for this unfortunate situation.
While that may be true, empty Sindhi classrooms are a symptom of a much larger problem: the descending academic interest in learning Modern Indian Languages (MILs).
Often, most people carefully choose their college subjects to align with their desired professional goalpost. If a degree has specific and highly revered job prospects, it is considered more desirable. That is why STEM majors have higher median salaries than other graduates. This system connects relevant skilled graduates with the appropriate marketplace.
However, learning different languages is also a highly sought after professional skill, so why do subjects like the MILs suffer?
Markets have a universal phenomenon of supply and demand. Greater demand for a language translates into a higher supply for it. Some languages are preferred more than others due to various socio-economic and geopolitical reasons. The sharp spike in globalisation has bought the world unprecedentedly closer than ever before, which in turn has created a greater demand for multilingual people.
Languages like English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese are some of the highest sought-after languages in the linguistic industry. Native speakers of these languages constitute prominent and influential demographics, making the languages important hubs for soft power across the globe. These trends affect the popularity of a language. For instance, the international market values a well-versed person in Japanese more than someone who knows Sindhi.
However, India maintains an incredible local linguistic diversity. It has one of the highest numbers of multilingual citizens. Most Indians can understand at least one language, apart from their mother tongue. While this bridges the communication gap, it inadvertently reduces others’ burden to learn these indigenous languages. Thereby, the increase in globalisation has caused increasingly homogenised environments worldwide. The need to safeguard our MILs is more significant than ever before.
The limited commercial industry for such languages explains the downhill academic interest in Sindhi. Governmental changes like the New Education Policy may counteract this phenomenon by encouraging more primary students to learn via their preferred regional language. A renewed focus on establishing social systems that enable people to study their inherited heritage can also benefit us. This would create expansive industries for our domestic languages while also setting a pathway for a system that does not solely value education as a means to achieve greater monetary profitability.
The subsequent few sessions may see more students in this subject, but the Sindhi classrooms in DU remain empty for now.
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