Education and the Minorities: A Sociolinguistic Point of View
THE minority language speakers operate with a majority language in the various domains of language use. The use of the mother-tongue is often restricted to intimate and informal situations. The socio-economic and cultural pressures in such contact-situations do hold the threat of extinction of or dominance over the stable ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics of the minority group. Education is one of the most effective channels to accentuate or to offset the magnitude of such threats. The study of the majority language not only as a subject in itself but also a medium (through which instruction in other subjects is imparted) creates severe strains for the members of the minority language communities.
Language is one of the major operant conditions affecting the socio-cultural life of a community and its members. In a multilingual country, the number of speakers and their concentration in a particular region is likely to give them the status of a dominant or non-dominant group. Such dominant or non-dominant group status is now well recognized in terms of official patronage given to a language/languages in various regions of the country. An exclusive official recognition or a position of dominance accorded to a language in any given region is likely to expose the minority groups there to several inequalities and hardships. These hardships often extend to the socio-economic and cultural aspects of life; they are also likely to influence the degree of language loyalty of and language maintenance by the members of the minority groups. Apart from maintaining their native language as the language of home and social contacts, the minority speakers perceive pressures to acquire proficiency in the dominant language of the region for purely ^instrumental' reasons, such as obtaining a job, being accepted by the majority group, and so on.
The minority language speaker will also be affected by his geographical spread or location: speakers found wholly in one state and speakers spread over more than one state. Those with concentration in