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Do all languages derive from a single common ancestor?

The construction of the tower of Babel, 16th century, by an unknown Flemish artist. Photo / Getty Images The Tower of Babel story is a fanciful attempt to account for a very real question: What was the first language and why are there now so many of them? The video below from TED Ed shows a brief history of how languages evolve, as speakers of the same language lose contact with each other in the centuries after migration and gradually drift linguistically in different directions. What’s most interesting is not simply how we got multiple languages but rather how we determine, without the benefit of a time machine, which modern languages are related. To do this, historical linguists compare large numbers of words in different languages, looking for similarities that can’t be explained by other factors, such as onomatopoeia (the word for cat is something like "miao" in several [...]

Do all languages derive from a single common ancestor?

A Bilingual Brain is More Developed: Oui or No?

It has long been held that a bilingual brain is more developed. The grey matter in the brain controls sensory perception that includes language skills, memory, emotions, speech, and most importantly decision-making and self-control. These are better developed in bilingual individuals who have been exposed to a second language from early childhood. The question of bilingualism is more applicable to the United States and other western monolingual countries, where only one language is predominant. With burgeoning global culture and economy, and a growing multi-racial and ethnic population, the United States has to change its mono-lingual mindset and ensure that it does not miss out on the advantages of bilingualism. Asian countries, however, are from birth multilingual cultures. ( In many parts of India, children are exposed to at least three languages, mother tongue, Hindi as the national language, and English.) A human brain is bilingual even while in the [...]

A Bilingual Brain is More Developed: Oui or No?

‘Siddharth’ movie review: A mystery with no simple or cliche solution

Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and Mahendra Saini (Rajesh Tailang) lose their young son but have few means to locate him in “Siddharth.” (Zeitgeist Films) Movies and television have turned us into believers of fanciful feats of heroism. We’ve seen so many examples of reality-defying comeuppance that we don’t just accept it when, for example, Liam Neeson hunts down his daughter’s captors in “ Taken ,” killing and maiming countless villains along the way; we expect it. It’s far more jarring to witness the reality of such a situation — just what “ Siddharth ” offers. The film by writer- director Richie Mehta features much less action than quiet desperation, but it works, thanks to brilliant performances by Tannishtha Chatterjee and Rajesh Tailang, who play parents living in Delhi. Mahendra (Tailing) is barely scraping by as a zipper repairman, spending day after day wandering the streets, alerting locals over a megaphone [...]

‘Siddharth’ movie review: A mystery with no simple or cliche solution

Realising the power of language

Realising the power of language ONE BY ONE: Today India, too, can claim that English is its very own domain and property, a language in which it functions without any kowtow to the former colonial power A Japanese acquaintance who is in charge of India in his company, recently raised the issue of the future of English in India. He was concerned that particularly in northern India, there was a clear trend towards Hindi, and that when recruiting staff, he was noticing a marked decline in English proficiency amongst the applicants. He wondered why India might be losing one of the major assets when it has been compared with other major Asian countries, notably Japan and China where the spread of English language capabilities leaves a lot to be desired. Together with religion and ethnicity, language is the key element that defines identity. It is, therefore, always a delicate [...]

Realising the power of language

Why is Sanskrit so controversial?

BBC News, Delhi Hindi script on a blackboard in a classroom in India Many Indian languages, including Hindi, originate from Sanskrit Continue reading the main story Related Stories India’s new government focus on Sanskrit has sparked a fresh debate over the role language plays in the lives of the country’s religious and linguistic minorities. Inside a brightly lit classroom at Delhi’s Laxman Public school, a group of students sing a Sanskrit hymn. Across the corridor, in another classroom, a group of grade eight students are being taught Vedic Mathematics, which dates back to a time in ancient India when Sanskrit was the main language used by scholars. It is all part of Sanskrit week – a celebration of the classical language across hundreds of schools mandated by India’s new federal right-wing government. "It’s our mother language, the root of all our languages," says Usha Ram, the school principal. Continue [...]

Why is Sanskrit so controversial?

My love affair with Chacha Chaudhary

It’s an unfortunate fact that we mostly only remember the people who’ve influenced our lives after they’ve gone. This Wednesday when I heard the news of Pran’s demise, I realized how little thought I had given to someone who was such a major part of my childhood. Tributes to his work and career including the famous Chacha Chaudhary began pouring in and reading those was a reminder of the number of lives he had touched across socio-cultural lines. The least I felt I could do was share my personal Chacha Chaudhary story, if not as a tribute then as a contribution to documenting the scope of his influence. The first two years of my school life were spent in Delhi where English and Hindi were the main languages. I could talk, read and write in Hindi because that is what I had learnt. Every Sunday, my mother would take [...]

My love affair with Chacha Chaudhary

Microsoft empowers the Hindi speaking market through technology

Jyotsna Makkar, CMO, Microsoft India Jyotsna Makkar, CMO, Microsoft India Innovations in technology can help solve many challenges and Microsoft is aiming to do just that with the use of local language technology in India. Local language computing is helping shape the teaching and learning process through several initiatives. It is also helping businesses achieve their full potential. By incorporating Hindi language in the Windows Operating System, the brand has bridged a huge divide. Whether it is educational institutes or small and large businesses, content in local language will only help more people access the internet and avail its benefits. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB international, internet users in India could increase by 24 per cent if local language content is made available. Jyotsna Makkar , CMO, Microsoft India in conversation with Rashi Bisaria , explains how the brand has been committed to [...]

Microsoft empowers the Hindi speaking market through technology

Foreigners eager to learn Hindi to connect with India

Experts say communicating in a country’s language also shows one’s intention to engage on social, political and business fronts. NEW DELHI: While India debates the new government’s plan to tweet in Hindi and civil service aspirants take to the streets in protest against a test of English-language skills being included in the exam, foreigners are increasingly seeking to speak the local language to woo Indians. US secretary of state John Kerry invoked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election tag line ‘Sabka saath sabka vikas’ at a Washington think-tank meeting before his India visit last week. While this may have been good diplomacy, investors and brand marketers are also trying to convey a greater cultural affinity. David Wax, director of US-based private equity investment firm WL Ross, has come to India several times in the past to discuss business deals. For his latest visit last week, Wax got his business cards [...]

Foreigners eager to learn Hindi to connect with India

Making Learning of Hindi Numbers Easier

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Santhosh Kumar R, an assistant professor at Mahatma Gandhi College here, has developed a new parallel number system in Hindi to overcome difficulties with comprehending the traditional Hindi number system, especially for those not having Hindi as their mother-tongue.  “The conventional numbering system in Hindi is distinctly different from one to 100. But in most other languages, there is a uniform pattern for numbering system that makes it easy to comprehend,” said Santhosh Kumar.  This forced the professor to develop a parallel number system and prepare a paper discussing the chances of including a parallel system in Hindi. In his paper, Santhosh recorded his alternatives for numbering from one to 1,000 with only 21 conventional numbers.  “Though the system is very easy for the experienced users of the language, it is very difficult for beginners and foreigners. For overcoming these difficulties, my proposed numbering system will be very [...]

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