Centre for Internet & Society

Pune scientists hold a workshop with Marathi Vishwakosh to thrash out how to provide more vocabulary for scientific discourse in the language, to cater to a vast majority that is not comfortable looking up info in English.

The article by Aparajita Vidyarthi was published in Pune Mirror on October 18, 2017.

City scientists have teamed up with the makers of the Marathi Vishwakosh and other organisations to promote the usage of the Marathi language for scientific discourse. Most of the scientific material available on the internet is in English. Thus, readers who wish to read this material in Marathi have fewer options. A workshop for the scientific scholars and authors was organised last week to urge them to write in Marathi. It was a joint effort by the Marathi Vishwakosh, Rawat’s Nature Academy, Centre for Internet Society and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA).

Mahtigar, the system operator of the Marathi Wikipedia, shared, “The number of scientists and scholars writing in Marathi has increased manifold, but there is still a long way to go as the number of Marathi readers are also increasing by the day. Also, I feel that even though the internet is a ready search tool, information is not that easy to avail of for the simple reason that it is not available in a layman’s language. For instance, if a person from the rural areas wishes to read and get information about the crops or agriculture, not much information is available in the language of his preference.”

He continued, “I still feel that initially, a bit of leniency to use technical words in English while writing scientific articles in Marathi should be given, since it will be easier to understand the material. Eventually, we can move on to using the technical Marathi words in articles.” It is being expected that by 2021, the number of Marathi readers of scientific journals will see a prominent incline. According to the KPMG and Google report, 80 per cent people in India will be using Indian languages to get information off the internet. Also, by 2021, around five crore of the Marathi population would prefer to operate the internet in Marathi only. Thus, efforts should be made to provide the material in the language.

Subodh Kulkarni, Marathi advocate from the Centre for Internet and Society, told Mirror,“The field of science is continuously expanding and evolving; the language has to do the same to stay on a par with it. Thus, continuous efforts have to be made to keep updating the dictionary and thesaurus of local languages. Supporting this cause, prominent scientist Jayant Narlikar among others has agreed to put his book on astrophysics on Wiki Source without copyrights. The book has been written in Marathi.” It has often been debated that usage of the internet is more in urban areas compared to villages. Surprisingly, on the contrary, the rural areas use the internet for 530 minutes per week, whereas city dwellers use only around 487 minutes per week.

Underscoring the immediate need for scientific content in Marathi, Pradip Rawat, director of Rawat’s Nature Academy, stressed, “Out of 12 crore Marathi speakers, only around 50,000 know English. What about the rest? Scant information is available for Marathi readers. Even though the fisherman and labourers have access to the internet via the smartphone, they can’t really decipher the information owing to the language barrier. The Marathi encyclopedia will now be linked to the Marathi Wikipedia, so that more and more information is available for the people. I think it is a watershed moment. During the workshop, we also discussed about a comparative chart of where the other Indian languages stand. We have to strengthen Marathi on the internet. This way we will be able to approach the commonest person of the country.”