Monday, August 10, 2020

NEP 2020, NTM, and Indian Languages in Higher Education

Language region maps of India. Source: (Filpro / CC BY-SA)


The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) (PDF) makes several recommendations for education in Indian languages. The 60-page document's recommendations for languages in school education are being discussed quite a lot in the media. In the English media, "Why is India obsessed with English-medium education – when it goes against scientific consensus?", by Shoaib Daniyal, is a sensible look at the current debate, and points to several studies worldwide to make its arguments.

However, this post is about the National Translation Mission (NTM), which is already addressing several of the Policy's recommendations for Higher Education Institutes (HEIs). The Policy observes:

22.7. For languages to remain relevant and vibrant, there must be a steady stream of high-quality learning and print materials in these languages – including textbooks, workbooks, videos, plays, poems, novels, magazines etc. Languages must also have consistent official updates to their vocabularies and dictionaries, widely disseminated so that the most current issues and concepts can be effectively discussed in these languages. Enabling such learning materials, print materials, and translations of important materials from world languages, and constantly updating vocabularies has to become a national priority. (pp. 52-53)

NTM is seriously engaging with a part of this "national priority". Here is a list of the 69 "chief domains" in which NTM has identified "knowledge texts". As their website notes: "All prescribed text books, reference books and articles that are considered foundational in any discipline of college / university education are included for translation. Specific attention is given to the disciplines of Natural Sciences and Social Sciences." The result is a list that currently ranges, alphabetically, from "Adult / Continuing Education" and "Anthropology", through "Linguistics" and "Management", to "Women's Studies" and "Zoology (General)".

To create a network of translators for such a massive project, NTM has been conducting regular Translator Education programmes – currently on hold because of COVID-19.  Here is what their Translator Education page says:

Translator Education Programme of NTM primarily aims to orient the translator towards the translation of knowledge texts. It also offers academic support to those who are willing to take up translation as their profession. It orients translators about the history and tradition of translation in India, problems and challenges in knowledge text translation in Indian Languages and how to use translation tools such as dictionaries, glossaries and thesaurus. It also intends to prepare versatile and efficient professional translators. To achieve the said goal, NTM conducts events like Workshops, Orientation Programmes and Seminars. Translation Today (NTM′s biannual journal), Handbook for Translators, AV materials produced by NTM Media and NTM′s Course Materials would act as apparatus in educating translators.
Thus, NTM is already performing some of the functions envisaged in NEP 2020 for the "proposed Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation" (p. 53).

Nor is all this somewhere in the future! Here is NTM's 2018-2019 Catalogue of 63 translations already published and available – in India's 22 Official Languages! A few examples of what is already available in their catalogue:

And here's a list of "Shortlisted Books for Translation". There are many more fascinating details: see NTM's Detailed Project Report. Further, appropriately enough for a project addressing India's multilingualism, the NTM website is available not only in English, but in all the other 22 Official Languages as well!

On a smaller scale, such systematic translation projects are going on in other places as well – at Azim Premji University, for example. As details become available, we will blog about those too.

However, as this post shows, there is much to learn from this National Translation Mission project to keep our languages "relevant and vibrant".

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