Professor S.N. Sridhar and his wife, Professor Meena Sridhar, who is director of the Center for India Studies, have both been keepers of the Indian languages at Stony Brook, State University of New York.
...Sridhar heads the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies and is professor of Linguistics.
,India is an extremely multilingual country,, he
says, pointing out that while Hindi is the official language and English the associate official language, the constitution lists 20 languages but there are literally hundreds of languages in India, all living, vital languages. ,If you even take only languages that are spoken by more than 100,000 people, there are more than 400 languages like that.
...Meena Sridhar, associate professor of Linguistics and India Studies, who has researched language and cultural maintenance among Asian Indian children in the U.S. since 1983, says ,They are not losing the language as such, but many of them don,t have the opportunity to learn the language, especially those who are growing up in small towns rather than cosmopolitan towns.,She
points out a child growing up in some small community in say, Indiana, where the family may be the only Hindi speakers, will find it harder to maintain the language, whereas in large Indian communities children find it easier to pick up culture and language.
There are, for example, more than 2000 undergraduates of Indian background on the Stonybrook campus, and they do speak the language.Meena Sridhar
says, ,It,s not perfect grammar, but then we linguists don,t worry about perfectly formed grammatical sentences.They can communicate and so language is being maintained., But, she
adds, ,How long it,s going to be maintained is a difficult question to answer.,
Says Meena Sridhar
: ,We are very happy to see the Indian community is finally getting organized.The Chinese and Koreans have been doing this for a while and the Jewish community is superb, very well organized for the teaching of Hebrew and religion., The Sridhars, through their outreach program at the Center for India Studies
at Stony Brook are often asked by school districts to conduct workshops on Indian culture for school administrators.Many parents also contact them with the vexing question of whether children should be brought up bilingual or taught just English to get ahead in the American world.
And what do they tell those parents?Meena Sridhar
says, ,We tell them there,s absolutely no reason as to why their children shouldn,t be exposed to two languages or more, because there,s no evidence in research to show that one language would interfere with the other in any way.
Says Meena Sridhar
: ,Children are very good at picking up languages right up till the early teens.