One World, One (Giant) Language

Posted on November 7, 2011 by Tara Thiagarajan in Physics of Poverty, Writing. 5 comments

Take a risk. Use your imagination. Transform your world.

Try to say this in any Indian language. I challenge you. You will fall short. Short on comparable, easily accessible vocabulary, short on that easy feel of flow and short on memories of when you last heard something like it said. English is the language of progress and possibility. English is the language of technology. English is the language of change.

To be progressive, therefore, one of the most powerful things we can do in this country is make English mandatory curriculum in every school, and then in the next generation just switch to English as the sole medium of instruction. One world. One language.

OK, I hear the critics. Some of our languages are so beautiful. So much of our culture will be lost. Then quick, start translating. English is one of the … Read More »

When there are no words…

Posted on February 14, 2011 by Tara Thiagarajan in Uncategorized. 4 comments

A couple weeks ago at an internal strategy meeting at Madura we were talking about the connotations of the word ‘transformation’. Transformation meant change that was dramatic and rapid, not slow and gradual. To transform, we agreed, required taking bold risks, a leap of faith. How do we say this in Tamil? I asked. We work largely in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu and the room had at least 25 native Tamil speakers. There was a moment of silence and then arguments erupted, online dictionaries were consulted. There was no equivalent word in Tamil for transformation. No equivalent word for risk. No comparable idiom to a leap of faith. It took several sentences to explain each word. For all the richness of the Tamil language along other dimensions, the closest word for ‘transformation’ was urumaatram, … Read More »