Treat English as a local language, not a colonial imposition

Rahul Singh

Some months again, I did a column on the contentious concern of language, mentioning that it may very well be much more divisive than faith. Religion had made West and East Pakistan, although separated by 3,000 kms of Indian territory, into one nation in 1947. But the forcible imposition of Urdu on East Pakistan, the place Bangla audio system outnumbered the Urdu audio system, led to the creation of Bangladesh. In India, too, within the early 1960s, there have been violent riots and 70 deaths in Tamil Nadu towards the imposition of Hindi. There was even a requirement for a separate nation of ‘Dravida Nadu’. Democracy got here to India’s rescue when the DMK was elected to energy within the state in 1967 and the separatist motion died down. We remained united whereas Pakistan cut up up. India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, had additionally reassured the non-Hindi-speaking states that English would proceed as an official language, together with Hindi.

Earlier, C Rajagopalachari and Subhas Chandra Bose prompt that Hindi, or quite Hindustani, can be extra acceptable to the south if it was within the Roman script. But the Hindi fanatics would have none of it. I imagine there was an excellent alternative then to have made Hindustani in Roman script the lingua franca of the nation. Turkey, dominated by that nice reformer Kemal Ataturk, did one thing related in 1928 when it abolished the 1,000-year-old Arab script and changed it with Roman. Turkey’s literacy fee shot up from 10 per cent to 90, on par with superior international locations. Indonesia, too, made the Roman script nationwide, and has had no severe language downside since then. In India, nevertheless, a three-language coverage was put in place that has merely not labored as it’s grossly unfair to non-Hindi-speaking Indians, particularly in south India.

The New Education Policy has been broadly commented upon. Unfortunately, the disastrous three-language coverage continues. The false notion that English and, by inference, the Roman script are “colonial” impositions on us and due to this fact unacceptable underlies the NEP. How come Turkey and Indonesia, together with a bunch of different international locations in Africa and Asia, didn’t discover it “colonial”?

The NEP additionally appears to disregard the onerous realities on the bottom and is stuffed with ethereal platitudes. Learning outcomes in India, significantly in authorities colleges, are abysmal. Which is why increasingly youngsters, even from comparatively poor households, are gravitating to personal colleges. Another purpose is that English is an aspirational language even for poor households as a result of it’s a ladder for jobs. Many mother and father may not communicate it, however they need their youngsters to take action. The result’s that nearly half of Indian youngsters are actually enrolled in non-public colleges, whereas education ought to actually have been the duty of the federal government. In most different international locations, particularly within the West, state-run free colleges (known as “grammar schools” within the UK and “lycees” in France) are high class. Margaret Thatcher, one in every of Britain’s most excellent Prime Ministers, was the product of a grammar faculty. Elite colleges like Harrow (the place Nehru went) and Eton are additionally glorious, however with charges that solely the wealthy can afford, as is certainly the case in India, with the likes of Doon School and Mayo College.

Returning to English, I made my first journey to China some 4 many years in the past. I used to be amazed to seek out that the state-run radio and TV had lengthy every day programmes on tips on how to communicate English. Even then Beijing had realised that if the nation was to meet up with the superior nations, extra Chinese who knew English have been wanted. And have a look at China now, the second-largest financial system on this planet and an IT tremendous energy. And in India we are attempting our damnedest to do away with an asset, English, we have already got, and which has no less than made us into an IT and outsourcing big. How short-sighted and silly! Let us recognise English not as a “colonial” language imposed on us, however virtually three centuries later, a “native” Indian language. As it’s, it’s spoken with so many ranging accents that the way in which a Bengali, or a Punjabi, or a Tamilian speaks it, one can barely comprehend the opposite!

In conclusion, let me straight quote the NEP: “The three languages learned by children will be the choices of states, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India.”

Note the sly use of the phrase “native”. The clear intention is to eradicate English, whereas I might argue that English has change into “native” to India. Don’t get me unsuitable. We actually do want a lingua franca that nearly each nation has. Perhaps in India, two are required: Hindustani — not shuddh Hindi — and English, or Hinglish. A current survey reveals that English is now the second most spoken language, chopping throughout all linguistic teams (the primary in fact is Hindustani). English can be globally essentially the most spoken language. These are details that can’t be wished away.

The NEP would ideally like all youngsters to study three languages. For a south Indian, which means three totally different scripts, as not solely do we’ve 22 official languages, however quite a few scripts as properly. Do we wish to produce youngsters who spend most of their faculty and faculty time getting proficiency in languages and neglecting the research of different topics that give a well-rounded training? Taken to its logical conclusion, we are going to change into a nation of linguists — with abilities in nothing else.

— The author is a veteran journalist

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