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How Japanese Made Science their Own ...

September 14, 2013

हिंदी दिवस पर विशेष 

आज हिंदी दिवस है। तकनीकी क्षेत्र में कार्यरत ज्यादातर लोगोँ का मानना है कि तकनीकी कार्य सिर्फ़ अंगरेज़ी में ही संभव है । ऐसे लोगोँ के लिए मैं डाक्टर रघुवीर का एक लेखप्रस्तुत कर रहा हूं जो भारत में मौलिक आविष्कार ना होने का कारण स्पष्ट करता है । मैने जानबूझ कर इसका अनुवाद नहीं किया है जिससे इस लेख का मौलिक स्वरूप बना रहे । डाक्टर रघुवीर को भारत सरकार ने आज़ादी के तुरंत बाद हिंदी को सरकारी भाषा बनाने के लिए राजकीय अंगरेज़ी- हिंदी शब्दकोष बनाने का कार्य सौँपा था और उनका बनाया शब्दकोष हर सरकारी कार्यालय में रखा जाता है.

 How the Japanese made science their own

 It was in 1867 that the Japanese Government decided to open their country to foreigners. Twenty years later they began recasting their educational system. It was an uphill task but the Japanese were not frightened. They were full of energy. They had youth and Japan was not inhabited by slaves. It was a country which had always been free, always fresh. If they once made up their mind to go modern, nothing could stop them.
  Batches after batches of young men rallied forth to Europe and they learnt Western sciences and literature and returned home. At home, they could not reproduce the Western atmosphere unless and until they adopted their own medium of thought and instruction. It was a stupendous affair, for the men who were set on this new nationalizing activity, were not always clever enough to capture the exact or the entire field of association of European words. But the Japanese were in a desperate hurry. They could not wait. Good, bad or indifferent, they provided words in their language.

The phraseology of science is gigantic. Teams of men worked day and night, for months and for years until they could train their own technicians, university professors in all departments of science, whether of mere academic interest or of commercial value.
  To whatever the Japanese set their hand to, or whatever they set their mind, it was through the medium of their own tongue. The Japanese made a discovery. It should be no less a discovery to us that those who had gone to foreign countries did not form the best workers. Those brains were informed which worked through their own medium. These brains worked quicker and had a surer grasp. Having their own language gave another advantage to the Japanese.

  When they discovered new commercial products or invented new things in the domain of pure science, that remained sealed knowledge for the outside world for several years. They became known to the outsiders only when the Japanese themselves had advanced further and could well afford to let the secret go out to enrich the rest of the world. One might wonder as to how the average Japanese could keep in touch with the scientific developments in the rest of the world. The Japanese had a system about it. Every research worker could know of the work done in any part of the world in his own sphere. This work was made available to him without much delay. The system was not complicated. It was simple and effective.
        On account of the forced education through English in our country, we have lost the feeling for our own language. We have lived too long under the heel of others to feel the value of being ourselves. But feeling apart, in itself it is an educational problem and has to be tackled from the purely utilitarian point of view. Almost a thousand English words have become so current in this country, that it would be called blasphemy to make any effort to translate them. But the Japanese people were free when they took to European civilization. They were not burdened by any foreign language and they could not think of burdening themselves and their future generations also with a foreign language. They simply could not think in any terms but of their own language. 
 Here are a few common English words with their Japanese equivalents.   Asbestos in Japanese is represented by two symbols which are pronounced as seki-men, meaning "stone-cotton". Autogyro is fu-sha-shiki-hi-ko-ki   These six characters mean "wind-vehicle-model-flight-machinery". The Japanese do not consider it a long word.

In a word like Bangalore-torpedo the Japanese have got rid of the proper name . They call it baku-yaku-to  meaning "explosion-medicine-tube". Barometer is "sunshine-rain-calculator"- in Japanese sei-u-kei. Bicycle is ji-ten-sha  "self-revolve-vehicle". Hospital is byo-in "disease-building". Photograph is called "reflected-reality", sha-shin . Railway is translated from the German and French name and not from the English word. It is tetsu-do meaning "iron-path". Switch is denro-kai-hei-ki  "electricity-opening-shutting-instrument". Translation of tank is rather prosaic, sen-sha "battle-vehicle".
         These words are not always significant in the same sense in which the Sanskrit words are. Still they are expressive, even poetic, above all serviceable. Without them the Japanese could not have mastered science. They could not have spread education among the masses and they could not have come to the top.
         To make science our own ,we must have our own words. Borrowing the technical words from English shall ever keep us slaves to the English. It is true that we have to build up our own scientific literature. With the coming of our own language this literature will be built sooner than it could ever be done otherwise. With our own language as the medium of thought and with our own technical words, science will truly become our own. It shall not remain foreign.                     

[Courtesy "' National Language" (1965) by Dr Raghu Vir] 

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