Romanagri, have you heard of this language? It is a new language used by young people across India. The interesting thing is the evolution of this language is different from the other languages.
Languages traditionally developed through gradual accumulation of words and syntax and spread through the brain and the tongue. Romanagri, a protmanteau of English and Hindi, changes and proliferates via cell phones rather than speech. Romanagri is a natural language among young Indians, but confusing to English language purist.
This is the language of BlackBerry messengers, Tweets, Facebook posts and SMS. The language could simply be a regional language written in English as a phone message or Tweet such as “Mera naam Jacob hain” (my name is Jacob) to very complex combinations like “Picture main feel nahin thee” (The film lacked pizzazz).
Though the use of transliterated script like Romanagri isn’t something new in India, but it does pose a complex problem in India for the reasons that majority are more fluent in their native language than English and are taught to read English before they speak it, yet disadvantaged economically and professionally because English is preeminent language for a white-collar.
Disconnection has remained a barrier for people who have been unable to tap into India’s consumer market despite the widespread use of cellphones. To break the barrier, clever inventors have tried to invent technologies such as language keyboards, voice-to-text conversion etc to overcome the constraints of English.
There’s doubt that Romanized language will have much potential say for news website or anything that involves more than a couple of sentences, but will continue to be the language for getting film music or movies.
To show the complexity of Romanagri, a study was done to test participants who had studied both Hindi and English and routinely conversed in text messages that interspersed both languages. The participants had to read sets of words that were interlingual homophones, or words that sound the same but have different meanings in both Hindi or English. Based on what they read, participants had to search concrete nouns from the words that were written in Hindi, English and Romanagri. Indeed, Romanagri took more time and was prone to more errors, even if the words involved were comparably familiar.
Researches found that Romanagri evoked responses from several regions of the brain for the “attention network” of the brain which is what helps people to multi task and prioritize between tasks that are competing for our attention. This additionally proves the complexity of the language and led researchers to ask questions of whether bilinguals extract information from language differently from mono-linguals and whether there are costs associated with having to juggle multiple languages.
Perhaps with the complexity of a language come benefits. We have seen several researches in the past indicating that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism showed a slower progress into early symptoms of Alzheimer’s than monolinguals.
A professor at the Centre for Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences in Allahabad, argues that the natural condition of most Indians of knowing two or three languages and having varying degrees of proficiency in communicating them is in general beneficial. Also, studies have indicated bilinguals have better skills at multi-tasking.
Apart from multi-tasking, study point to possible lines of investigation in understanding dyslexia among children not trained in English and reworking the pedagogy of English learning in India.