In August 2006, The Ministry of Tourism laid out the guidelines to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered as a “Classical Language”
- High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years.ii)
- A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
- The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community
- The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
The press release also mentioned that only Tamil & Sanskrit met thee guidelines. Later, after receiving representation from several scholars, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Oriya and Marathi were accorded the status of Classical Language. State probably has a role in helping languages but it is the people who eventually decide the ‘fate’ of a language. At a time when a lot of people consider English as the lingua franca, according the status of “classical” or otherwise does very little to the people for in such situations people are mostly motivated by economics and not emotions.
Although the intentions are good, the ‘classical language’ tag has helped very little. For someone sitting in Karnataka, it is easy to learn German/French/Japanese etc because there are enough resources for an interested individual to pick from. While it is extremely straightforward to enrol and obtain certifications in these foreign languages, it is very difficult for a Bengali(say) to even obtain a rudimentary book like “Learn Kannada through Bengali”.
It is widely accepted that learning a new language provides a new worldview and that it opens up cultural boundaries. But how do we accomplish this when, laughably, it is difficult to procure the basic resources required to learn a language?