By Suhas Balasubramanya

The panel was filled with young, Kannada-speaking techies. Mr. Thrilochana, the moderator, opened by providing a brief overview of Kannada’s history. “Kannada is one of the oldest languages of India. It has been known to constantly evolve and re-invented itself throughout the course of its 2000-odd years of existence. It is vital to address the challenges that languages like Kannada are facing in these times of aggressive globalization.”

He invited opinions from the panelists regarding whether Kannada is prepared to face those challenges.

Mr. Vasant Shetty, taking up this issue, said that the phenomenon of globalization is not new, it existed in the 16th century as well. The problems faced by languages like Kannada, Tamil and Telugu as a result of this, however, has been exacerbated over the last 50-60 years. Borders have blurred, leaving scope for increased interactions between different communities, he said.

Continuing this line of thought, Mr. Rudra Prasad chipped in by saying that, today, migration is a common phenomenon. When one analyses the top migrant destinations, Bangalore plays host to the most number of highly educated migrants. They happily regard the IT capital as their second home. Mr. Prasad sees an opportunity here for native citizens to disseminate their culture and thereby develop their language.

But to what degree are there adequate facilities for those migrants to learn Kannada? Filling this vacuum, Mr. Prasad, developed an app, “Kannada Baratte” (I know Kannada), for this very purpose. He noted that there are a lot of Kannada-centric developments happening in the tech-space like blogs, apps, digital dictionaries etc. that ease the language learning process. Though he hoped that a Kannada-centric economy is created in Bangalore in the future (as envisioned in Upendra’s film, Super), he admits the irony that Indians learn English faster and better than their mother-tongue should be both acknowledged and accepted. Prasad also recognized the importance of inculcating confidence in youngsters about their mother-tongue.

Mr. Sandeep, who contributes scientific articles to the Kannada blog talked about the journey Kannada, as a language, has charted in the digital space. In the early days, when there were hardly few hundred words in the Kannada wiktionary, we’ve arrived at a point when there are innumerable apps and blogs focused on the proliferation of Kannada.

While discussing language planning, Mr. Vasant says the concept is hardly a recent invention. The government used to carry this out quite meticulously but globalization has created the platform for more active participation from the community in this regard. The role of the Kannada consumer is very important, he says. Vasant contends that, if the lakhs of Kannadigas present in the IT industry make it a point to use their language in shopping malls, multiplexes, and other cosmopolitan spaces, the language will automatically move forward.

“This consumer movement is the big take-away from the numerous pro-Kannada Chaluvalis”, he concluded.