Bollywood films have popularised Hindi internationally, but the language needs to take its rightful place alongside the five UN-recognised global languages, Consul General for India in Johannesburg Anju Ranjan said in an address on World Hindi Day.
The World Hindi Day or Vishwa Hindi Divas is celebrated every year on January 10 to mark the first World Hindi Conference that was held in 1975. It has since been held at various venues across the globe at regular intervals.
In 2012, the conference was co-hosted by the Hindi Shiksha Sangh of South Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre, which was renamed Gandhigram for the duration of the conference.
Ranjan, who has published a number of literary and poetic works in Hindi herself, said Hindi had progressed tremendously in India, but its status globally was not what it should be despite the huge diaspora, most of whom understood Hindi to some extent.
English, French, Japanese, Chinese and Russian are recognised as the five major UN languages, and even though there are more Hindi speakers than speakers of some of these languages in the world now, Hindi has not advanced to that level, Ranjan said.
“We need to start a kind of revolutionary action for Hindi to achieve the same status as those languages,” she said.
Ranjan said wherever she went in the world, youth in particular immediately shared phrases from Bollywood films with her.
“In Indonesia, the girls teased me, saying ‘kuch kuch hota hai’; in China they wanted to know if I had come from ‘Chandni Chowk to China’ (a popular film at the time). That shows that they imbibed a few phrases from these films, even if they did watch the films more for the subtitles.”
“This showed me that they understood our culture and lifestyle from these movies, but this is still very far from popularising Hindi as a language,” Ranjan said.
The diplomat lamented the continued persistence of using English as a medium in India even when hundreds of millions understand and use the language daily.
“This is a matter of great pride for me, but there are also those who believe that if you speak or write in Hindi, you will not advance in life. They believe that if you use English, you will gain much more knowledge and greater acceptance abroad.”
“Why are there not more science and technology or chemistry or law books in Hindi? Until such things happen to make Hindi meaningful, through incorporation in the educational curricula, Hindi will not reach the level that we desire,” Ranjan said.
Ranjan said there was a tendency to think in Hindi but to write these thoughts down in English despite Hindi being India’s national language.
“We need debates about how we can eliminate such barriers to raising Hindi to new heights,” Ranjan concluded.