Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Know your roots!

A Message to my Students, age 12 and above

You will observe, as you grow older, that reading school books and learning for examinations do not help to develop vocabulary after Class 8. That's it -- you have to do this on your own, no teacher can help you.

One of the ways is to understand how the English language grew into the mighty ocean of words and synonyms and antonyms the way it is today, with a total vocabulary of over a million words, and probably even more if we count the technical, chemical, and other terms that professionals use in their work. Why did Hindi not keep pace with it? Why not Tamil or Telugu, and not even French? Recent history answers the question.

Some of the influential speakers of these languages did not wish to have their languages 'polluted', or made 'unclean' with words from other languages. I remember the fanatical enthusiasm with which the Hindi-speakers sought to chase Arabic, Persian, and Urdu words out of the language of the people of India. I remember the virulent speeches rendered by the 'Dravidian' leaders of south India when they spoke of the defilement, desecration, and contamination of Tamil when many common words had evolved from Sanskrit, or were rooted in Sanskrit.

Young people must understand that languages grow naturally through the way people use them, and they evolve into magnificent means of communication with a wide vocabulary when no group, no specific religion, no particular nation claims it as its own. English had this advantage ever since the British Empire spread its tentacles around the globe 200 years ago. And, English grew to fill a vacuum. This language simply absorbed words from other languages throughout its history, accelerated the pace since 1400 A.D., and can now be called the world's most preferred language of communication.

I had been wanting to write on words, their origins, and the interesting stories of how they evolved. Visit my blog at http://wordroots.blogspot.com/ for some words and their roots, which I shall keep posting from time to time. I can neither make this exhaustive nor can I make my posts a school lesson nor college lecture. I do try to make my posts readable, humorous, satirical, or interesting. If you will write your ideas into the comments box, I would have a feedback of your feelings on my blogs and their usefulness.

Get yourself a good dictionary (edition as recent as possible, definitely not over 5 years old), and commence looking it up for every new word that you come across. See your word stock grow - it is a process that will not stop till the end of your days! One of the first chapters in most dictionaries is a brief history of the language. Read it and see for yourself how interesting it all becomes thereafter. I wish you happy times with English words!


Gavish said...

Dear Mr.Wilfred,
In your comment you had described about why hindi as a language is not wide spread as English.I totally agree with you,this is Indians conservative & inward loking approach that has made hindi not so acceptable language around the world.

Through this comment page,I would like to comment on my son's development as a student in your school.We are noticing an ongoing improvement in our son's ability especially in his reading & speaking ability.

Your teacher's efforts & the pattern of your education has made my decision right to put him in "The Genius".

Prasan Wilfred said...

Thank you Gavish for your compliments. You probably appreciate our efforts even more because you yourself were a student attending a programme at The Genius for some time during your College years!
I find that our efforts are most fruitful only when the child has sufficient support from the family, and the home environment is conducive to intellectual health.
--Prasan Wilfred