Pune linguist brings German to masses

Shirish Shinde
Friday, 27 July 2018

He is a multi-linguist and has knowledge of German, French, Russian along with many other Indian languages

Pune: Awinash Biniwale (73) has done a pioneering work in the field of German studies. This Puneite has brought German teaching from elite English-speaking circles to the common man.

His books and dictionaries of German-Marathi, German-Sindhi and vice versa and German grammar books in Marathi, Hindi, Sindhi and Gujarati are among first such publications. He is a multi-linguist and has knowledge of German, French, Russian along with many other Indian languages. He has written around 70 books, including two novels, travelogues, etc.

He is the recipient of the Hindi Sahitya Akademi Award (2014) for his Hindi novel ‘Jai Kailash’ while the Maharashtra government honoured him with the Dr Ashok Kelkar Award (2018) for his contribution to the field of literature and language. 

Biniwale taught German from 1967 to 2002 at Elphinstone College, Mumbai and Rajaram College, Kolhapur. When asked how he could learn so many languages, he said if there is will, there is a way. 

Biniwale claims that for Indians, learning other Indian languages is very easy. He said he learnt them as it was his need. Citing an example as to how he learnt Tamil back in the late 1960s, he said he was travelling by train in Tamil Nadu and could not understand names of stations as the English and Hindi names were blackened. So, every time he had to ask co-passengers who could read Tamil. He felt that it appeared as though he was illiterate. So, he learnt the language. Similarly, he picked up Kannada as he used to visit his uncle in Belgaum, where destination names on buses were in Kannada. Biniwale claimed that basics of any Indian language can be learnt within 24 hours. In fact, he has conducted such classes for people.

When asked how he learnt German and French, he replied that he learnt German at Fergusson College. However, he was fortunate to have Fr Lederle and Fr Delarie as his teachers for German and French, respectively. 

Biniwale could not only learn the languages but got to know the culture of these countries from them. Moreover, his aunt had opened a restaurant in Paris back in the 1930s. His father and his aunt used to converse in French. Thus, he grasped the language fast. A native Russian teacher taught him Russian in an 8-week course at Ranade Institute.

Leading his post-retirement life in Pune, Biniwale feels that his contribution should be acknowledged by the German government and the local fraternity. He said he was not invited for the Centenary celebrations of German teaching in India in 2013 in Pune. He wanted to translate VS Khandekar’s famous Marathi novel ‘Yayati’ into German, but an official from German Consulate discouraged him and asked him to rather translate a German novel into Marathi. 

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