Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
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
"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
in English "k", "c" and "q". Such is not the case with our languages.
"f" sound in English is represented in three different ways as
the words "fairy", "philosophy", "rough". When you say "c" as a letter
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"
occurs only in a few words like "cell", "celluloid", "cinema". The
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
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
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
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
I feel sad when I think of it.