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Stanford student Ian Miller writes on the importance of South Asian languages

Jan 22 2018

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Students

South Asia is a region characterized by the great diversity of languages spoken in it. With
several languages—Hindi/Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, and Marathi—with speaker
populations in excess of 70 million, learning a South Asian language promises to be and
exciting and rewarding endeavor.

As home to the world’s largest democracy, an internationally momentous geo-political situation,
and a long history of political activism, linguistic access to South Asia opens many opportunities
for the student of politics. The size, dynamism, and potential of South Asian economies make
knowledge of its languages critical in global development, sustainability, and income inequality
efforts. And, as the birthplace of four major religions, rich literary and philosophical traditions,
the world’s largest film industry, and anti-colonial freedom movements, South Asian languages
are indispensable to humanistic endeavors.

Yet despite the widespread use, utility, and many academic applications of South Asian
language study, offerings and enrollments remain comparatively low at most United States
universities. Compared to languages like Mandarin, Spanish, or even Italian, academic
institutions and the students and teachers in them, have yet to embrace one of the world’s most
exciting regions.

South Asia’s continued rise on the world stage will surely spur greater engagement with its
languages and cultures, but in the meantime anyone with a desire to learn a new language
would be well served by learning one of South Asia’s many. Stanford students are fortunate

to have access to classes in Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Persian and sporadically Bengali and Pashto.

I have loved learning Hindi here and hope there will be many South Asian languages offered at

Stanford in the near future.