Thursday, August 24, 2006

What about my mother tongue? August 27, 2006

My column on ‘Inglish’ last month brought a lot of mail. Much of it was favourable, but a few criticised me for advocating the “bizarre” idea that we should think of English as an Indian language and exploit it unabashedly to “conquer the world”. Since my critics are serious academics I don’t want to dismiss their concerns lightly. The nation’s 59th birthday has also just passed—so it is a good time to dwell on our linguistic future.
Anthropologists tell us that language is a carrier of culture and one’s first language carries one’s culture. Gauri Vishwanathan writes in the Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India that the English language came to us as an "imperial mission" of educating and civilising colonial subjects in the literature and thought of England. English speaking Indians thus became “alienated from their roots, their character degraded, and their minds colonized and incapable of innovation”. English also became an instrument of social exclusion against the low caste. Hence, many critics want English banned from our primary schools.
True, it came here on an imperial mission and got left behind by accident, but English is now a part of our history, as much as Gandhi and Nehru. Millions of Indians have been speaking English for generations and they don’t show imminent signs of losing their Indian-ness. Besides, young middle class Indians today are more confident and relaxed, and their minds are finally decolonised. They think of English as an empowering skill, like Windows, and are comfortable mixing it with their mother tongue. They “live in their own skin" as the great French-Algerian writer, Frantz Fanon, would have put it.
Professor David Crystal, author of the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language, says that no one 'owns' English anymore. It is the global language and a quarter of the world's population uses it. Three-quarters of the world's people are naturally bilingual, he adds. This means that people are capable of maintaining a balance between their language of empowerment and their language of identity. Hence, major languages, like Marathi and Kannada, are in no danger of extinction (although our tribal languages are). Vernacular chauvinists, in Karnataka and elsewhere, are wrong to go against parents’ wishes who want their children to learn English in primary schools. Linguistic experts say that a person has a huge advantage if he learns a language before the age of ten. This is one of the reasons why 98 out of 100 candidates for call centre jobs get rejected. Over the next ten years 3.5 million jobs are expected to be outsourced globally, and they are likely to be lost by India because BPO experts say that India is losing its “English” advantage to other countries. China has realised that outsourcing is capable of wiping out the disease of “educated unemployment” and it has made teaching English from KG a national goal.

What is truly “bizarre” is that India, whose success in the global economy derives from its facility with English, should remain hostage to the deep insecurities of its vernacular chauvinists. They worry about borrowing English words. Imagine if Shakespeare had written his plays in pure Anglo Saxon and hadn’t borrowed wildly from Latin, Germanic and French roots! We can either be like the French or the Chinese. The French whine over globalization while the confident Chinese go out to play and win the game. I’d rather follow the Chinese. Let’s think of English as an Indian language and go and win the world.

gurcharandas@vsnl.com

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Υouг wгіte-up οffeгs cοnfirmed beneficial to uѕ.
It’s really helpful аnd you're certainly quite well-informed in this area. You get popped my own face in order to numerous views on this matter together with interesting and sound content material.
My web blog : salsabravapro.com

srjwebsolutions said...

We are leading responsive website designing and development company in Noida.
We are offering mobile friendly responsive website designing, website development, e-commerce website, seo service and sem services in Noida.

Responsive Website Designing Company in Noida
Website Designing Company in Noida
SEO Services in Noida
SMO Services in Noida

indian models91 said...

We are uhe solid first platform for modeling newcomers to achieve there new dreams. The first to train and promote out models at our expense to avoid burden on them. Join the most popular agency if you modelling jobs in Delhi for female freshers, models, students, housewives aiming to start there modeling career. We are top modelling agency in Delhi offering modelling jobs in Delhi for upcoming female freshers or experienced models who want to join lingerie modeling agencies.


modeling agencies in Delhi
modeling agencies
modeling jobs
modeling auditions
model coordinators
modeling jobs in Delhi


ANIL GUPTA said...

We are specialized in Mechanised cleaning of Underground and Overhead Water Tanks of all sizes. Door Step services across Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad.


Water tank cleaning services in Noida
Water tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Water tank cleaning services in Delhi

Drain cleaning services in Noida

Drain cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Drain cleaning services in Delhi
Pipeline Cleaning Service in Noida


Pipeline cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Pipeline cleaning services in Delhi


Tank cleaning services in Noida

Tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Tank cleaning services in Delhi

Exide Battery said...

Battery Mantra Buy Car and Inverter battery online in India. BatteryMantra is Noida based India's No. 1 online battery store offering you genuine batteries of all the well-known battery brands at best prices.

Online Inverter Battery Store
Online Car Battery Store
Buy Inverter battery Dealer Noida
Buy battery online Noida
Online Inverter Battery Store
Buy car battery Noida