Languages and Scripts : Indian and Foreign
(HinduDharma: Part 7, Vyakarana (6 chapters))

A special feature of our language is that each syllable of every word is pronounced distinctly. Take the English word "world". The sound of the first syllable has no clear form; it is neither "we" nor "wo". Then the letter "r" is slurred over. There are many such indistinct words in foreign tongues. They come under the category of "avyakta-sabda" (indistinct sounds). In our country all languages are "spasta"(clear and distinct).

In the languages of many other countries there is no accord between spelling and pronunciation. For the sound of "ka" there are three letters in English "k", "c" and "q". Such is not the case with our languages. The "f" sound in English is represented in three different ways as illustrated in the words "fairy", "philosophy", "rough". When you say "c" as a letter of the English alphabet, it sounds like a "sa-kara" letter, but many words with the initial letter "c" have the "ka-kara" sound. The "sa-kara" sound occurs only in a few words like "cell", "celluloid", "cinema". The spelling is totally unrelated to the pronunciation as in "station" and "nation".

The Roman alphabet has only 26 letters and is easy to learn. The alphabets of our languages have more letters and are comparatively difficult to learn. But, once you have learned them, our languages are easier to read and write than their European counterparts. Take English, for instance. Even a person who has passed his M. A. has often to consult the dictionary for spelling and pronunciation.

But among Indian languages themselves Sanskrit is the best in the matter of spelling and pronunciation. By saying this I do not mean that the languages of other countries are inferior to ours. At the same time, so far as our own country is concerned, I do not wish to downgrade other tongues in comparison with Sanskrit. I merely mentioned some facts to underline the point that Sanskrit fully represents the Supreme Being manifested as the Sabda-brahman.

If we develop the attitude that all languages are our common heritage, we will not run down other people's tongues. We often forget the fact that the purpose of language, any language, is communication, exchange of ideas. It is our failure to recognise this basic fact that is the cause of fanatical attachment to our mother tongue and hatred of other languages. We are often asked to be broad-minded and to develop an international outlook, but in the matter of language we remain narrow-minded. I feel sad when I think of it.

"Hindu Dharma" is a book which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during the years 1907 to 1994).
For a general background, please see here