Preparation of lexicons of 21 tribal languages is a small but significant step towards keeping vanishing tribal languages in circulation.
Odisha is home to the largest number of Scheduled Tribe communities and 13 of these 62 tribal groups are classified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG). These tribes speak 21 languages and 74 dialects. While 7 of the 21 tribal languages have their own scripts, Odia has been used as the medium of communication in dictionaries so far.
A language is at risk of being lost when it is no longer taught to younger generations and fluent speakers of the language (usually the elderly) keep persishing. Just like any other society,language is an important part of tribal society, because it enables people to communicate and express themselves. When a language dies out, future generations lose a vital part of the culture that is necessary to completely understand it. Along with that, the knowledge of and ability to understand the culture of those who spoke the language is threatened because the teachings, customs, oral traditions and other inherited knowledge are no longer transmitted among native speakers. With death of a language some diversity in data sources is lost. This makes language a vulnerable aspect of cultural heritage and it becomes especially important to preserve it.
Adoption of more widely spoken competitors such as Odia, Hindi, English and dominant tribal languages, has hastened the disappearance of rare dialects. One way of preserving the languages is to encourage younger generations to speak the language as they grow, so that they will teach their children the language as well. In this context multilingual education has a pivotal role and the language proficiency modules would be one of the many tools for facilitating the process.
The bilingual tribal dictionaries would not only be instrumental and useful for MLE (Multilingual education) at the elementary level in tribal districts but together with trilingual tribal language proficiency modules in 21 tribal languages would be important handy references towards preservation and promotion of tribal languages in the State. The trilingual tribal language proficiency modules will help build bridges between the government functionaries and the tribals for effective communication, problem appraisal and redressal and bring them closer.