In a country which boasts of an estimated 1,500 languages, the Bharatavani portal comes as a blessing in disguise, allowing people around to world to access several monolingual and multilingual dictionaries along with other language resources for over 83 Indian languages, and is currently expanding to include more!
The Bharatavani portal, which was launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2016 became India’s biggest online repository of dictionaries. Conceptualised and managed by the Central Institute for Indian Languages, Mysuru, the website’s languages range from the lesser known Zeme, which is one amongst 191 Indian languages to be “endangered” according to UNESCO, to the more common Urdu.
The portal aims to document India’s languages, encouraging people to learn and speak in their mother tongues, and gives endangered languages much-needed online visibility.
As part of this effort, it has included several rare languages that are spoken by only a small percentage of the Indian population, including Khasi, Garo, Ho, and Yimchungre. Experts across various languages have also been roped in to ensure the accuracy of the content, and the website includes several multimedia resources such as instructional videos, historical facts based on each language, and even in-depth research papers.
The team has also developed a free Android app where users can search for languages and dictionaries, without the hassle of having to go through heavy PDF documents, and is soon set to cross over 100 languages.
“Bharatavani is not publishing new works, but we are for the first time digitising available dictionaries in smaller languages, to bring it to a wider audience”, Beluru Sudharshana, a consultant for CIIL, says to The Hindu.
What makes Bharatavani a revelation for linguists and researchers alike is the possibilities it has opened for India. In a conversation with The Hindu, G.N. Devy, who headed the People’s Linguistic Survey of India highlighted the potential of the portal in sociolinguistic research and development.
“One serious challenge is that children from communities speaking non-scheduled languages are pushed out of schools leading to development deprivation. For an imaginative user, content on Bharatvani may help in designing a curriculum in these languages”, he explains.
In the future, the Bharatavani portal hopes to expand to online classes, where both rare and common languages can be taught by expert speakers and is undergoing research and development for a virtual keyboard where users can type in any language of their choice to search for content.