Saturday October 21, 2017

Linguistic hegemony and cultural imperialism through English

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How the west has established its cultural hegemony in the world through the English language is aptly depicted in two examples cited by Professor Alastair Pennycook in his book ‘The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language’.

Pennycook talks of the Voyager aircraft drifting in its lonely trajectory in 1977 in search of other life-inhabited galaxies, carrying recorded messages of greetings to aliens in fifty-five of world’s languages. But the principal message of greeting was delivered in the so-called universal language ‘English’ by none other than the then UN General-Secretary, Kurt Waldheim:

‘As the Secretary-General of the United Nations… I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet.’

Meanwhile, on the planet earth from a small radio in a township shack in Johannesburg’s Soweto, Johny Clegg and Savuka crooned thus:

Bits of songs and broken drums
Are all he could recall
So he spoke to me
In a bastard tongue
Carried on the silence of the guns

It’s been a long time
Since they first came
And marched thru the village
They taught me to forget my past
And live the future in their image

Chores They said I should learn to speak
A little bit of English
Don’t be scared of a suit and tie
Learn to walk in the dreams of a foreigner
I am a third world child

(Third World Child, Johnny Clegg and Savuka)

The irony and contraction in the two events happening at the same time i.e. the UN General Secretary’s speech and the South African singer’s song could not be more evident. For while Waldheim sends greetings on behalf of the people of ‘our planet’ in English, the singer recalls how they were taught to forget their past, told to learn to speak a little bit of the universal language and ‘walk in the dreams of a foreigner’. How could English be called the universal language when the majority of people in the world do not speak it?

Professor Joga Virk told NewsGram that these facts amply demonstrated that Indian people needed to deeply reflect upon the present linguistic situation in India, so that a correct language policy could be put in place.

Verily, the plight of local languages throughout the world is more or less the same. The imperialists use similar modus operandi everywhere i.e. of subjugating native populations by attacking their culture, language, self-esteem and replacing them with their own.

Henry Kissinger, at the time of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in September 1974, while addressing a group of businessmen in Washington, said:

“The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason, we must strike deep into their cultural roots. Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail. Thus, we can remove them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, to all this neuralgic territory of great strategic importance for us, for the politics of the USA.”

British colonialists also had the same plans to establish their cultural hegemony in India. They gave India its independence in 1947 after 200 years of rule, but not before dividing the country along the lines of religion and imposing its language on the Indians. So much so that almost 70 years after attaining freedom, non-English speaking people who speak in their mother tongues are seen as inferior beings by their fellow countrymen. English defines classes as local Indian languages struggle hard to survive.

With one’s proficiency in English linked to one’s livelihood, it has become a necessity to learn the language.

Is it a well thought out and well-designed strategy to create a huge, lucrative market for Anglo-American commodities by using Anglophonic education as a weapon? Or is it just something we have to accept as a reality?

Author NS Ndebele in his paper on the English language and social change in South Africa writes, “The very concept of an international or world language was an invention of Western imperialism.”

After spending a considerable amount of time in India, the British realized in the eighteenth century that India could not be conquered militarily and that it could only be achieved through dividing them along the lines of religion, caste and above all language. The idea as first put forward by Lord Macaulay to the British Parliament on 2 February 1835 was to establish hegemony here by shaping popular consciousness, disassociating people from their cultural roots and traditions of solidarity and replacing them with their own.

Today, the majority of children in India are not being taught in their mother tongues but in a foreign language i.e. English. As a result, they are neither good in their own language nor in English.

Dr Joga Singh, Professor and Former Head of Department of Linguistics in Punjabi University, Patiala told NewsGram in a telephonic interview that one significant reason for India lagging behind countries such as South Korea, Japan, and China, etc. was the intrusion of English language in Indian education and other important domains.

The way English is occupying the language domains, the life of Indian mother tongues is under a severe threat,” Mr Singh said, adding, “The English medium instruction is producing a generation which has no appreciable mastery either over their mother tongues or over English; they cannot connect intimately with their own culture, tradition, history and people. It is not wrong to call these children as English children, for by the time they complete their schooling their competence in English is more than their mother tongues, it is meager though in English too.”

The Professor told NewsGram that these facts amply demonstrated that Indian people needed to deeply reflect upon the present linguistic situation in India, so that a correct language policy could be put in place.

“Restoring all linguistic domains to Indian mother tongues is essential not merely for saving and developing Indian languages, but it is essential for saving India. We may differ on certain points. But all Indian mother tongue lovers and the ones who have a correct understanding about language issues agree on one point that education at least up to school level must be in the child’s mother tongue. Let us all join to achieve this goal first.”

Once English is delinked from our education system, administration and Indian languages given due respect and restored to their deserving place, it would slowly start losing its relevance, he opined.

Also Read: India is free, but Indians are still colonized

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Google India introduces new products on advancement in machine learning for Indian Languages

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Google
Search engine, Google. Pixabay

New Delhi, Apr 25, 2017: Aiming to bring a billion people online and make the web more useful for them, Google India on Tuesday unveiled new products on advancement in machine learning for Indian languages.

Google also announced that the neural machine translation is now available for nine Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.

“Google wants to extend internet for every Indian. We have identified gaps that bar Indians from accessing the internet. There are 400 million internet users in India and the number is expected to reach 600 million by 2020,” Rajan Anandan, Vice President, India and SouthEast Asia, Google, told reporters here.

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He added that 300 million Indians access internet on smartphones. Anandan also spoke about Google’s tie-up with RailTel to provide high-speed internet at Railway stations.

The neural machine translation is available in Chrome and Maps to make the translation process seamless and refined.

The company said it does one billion translations everyday and 95 per cent of Google Translate has its usage outside of the US.

“Of over 500 million people who use Google Translate, most of the users are in India, Indonesia, Brazil and Thailand,” it said.

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According to Google, neural networks initially took 10 seconds to translate but the company worked on it and brought down the time to 0.2 seconds in two months.

The company also launched “Gboard” in 22 scheduled languages in India. The users can now search words, meanings and even emojis in local language.

The keyboard now has a new feature by which text editing can be done on the go easily.

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The new Gboard comes with a feature that makes it easy to resize and reposition the keyboard according to a user’s need.

Goggle also unveiled Hindi dictionary in Google Search in collaboration with Oxford University Press.

It also shared findings from a new report by Google and KPMG India, titled “Indian Languages-Defining India’s Internet”.  (IANS)

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Israel government awards 1 million USD to Indian-origin British sculptor

Kapoor would like to use the award prize to help alleviate the refugee crisis and try to expand the Jewish communitys engagement in a global effort to aid Syrian refugees

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Indian-origin
Anish Kapoor, Credits-(Wikimedia)

Jerusalem, Feb 6: A renowned Indian-origin British Sculptor ‘Anish Kapoor’ was awarded 1 million USD Genesis prize by the Israel government for his towards the Jewish values.

With this award in hand, Kapoor has joined the league of awardees such as Itzhak Perlman- former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and actor/director Michael Douglas.

Kapoor, 62, spoke out against “abhorrent government policies” towards refugees as he was named the recipient of this years Genesis prize, dubbed Jewish Nobel, mentioned PTI

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The prize committee’ led by Jewish Agency Chairperson- Natan Sharansky, recognized Kapoor as “one of the most influential & motivated artists of his generation”.

Kapoor would like to use the award prize to help alleviate the refugee crisis and try to expand the Jewish communitys engagement in a global effort to aid Syrian refugees.

“Jewish identity and history have witnessed recurring conditions of indifference, persecution and Holocaust. Repeatedly, we have had to repossess ourselves and re-identify our communities,” Kapoor said.

“As inheritors and carriers of Jewish values, it is unseemly, therefore, for us to ignore the plight of people who are persecuted, who have lost everything and had to flee as refugees in mortal danger,” he added.

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“Outsider consciousness resides at the heart of Jewish identity and this is what motivates me, while accepting the honour of the Genesis Prize, to re-gift the proceeds to refugee causes.”

“I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others. There are over 60 million refugees in the world today ? whatever the geography of displacement, the refugees crisis is right here on our doorstep,” he added further.

Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, said the profoundness of Kapoor’s work remarks the long history of Jewish endowment to the arts, while his social activism reaffirms the diligence of the Jewish people to humanitarian causes.

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“We particularly admire how, in an age frequently characterized by cynicism and indifference, Anish continually advocates for the world’s disadvantaged & challenging all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can,” Polovets said.

“Anishs commitment to alleviate the plight of Syrian refugees will resonate with the Jewish community, especially young Jews, everywhere.”

-Edited by Ashish srivastava of NewsGram Twitter @PhulRetard

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The way Kohinoor was projected by British, made it the World’s most Famous Diamond, says Historian William Dalrymple

The Koh-i-Noor is a large, colourless diamond that was found near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.

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Kohinoor Diamond, Wikimedia

Delhi, Dec 15, 2016: Renowned historian and writer William Dalrymple has given a statement that it was the “British Bragging”  that made Kohinoor famous. And, the way the Kohinoor was projected by them, made the gem world’s most famous diamond.

Dalrymple, in his new book titled, Kohinoor: The Story of the Worlds Most Infamous Diamond, argues that “Kohinoor becoming the gem of gems was British creation. Bigging up their conquest, they consciously put it on show at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and made it into a symbol of what they had taken from India.

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That has now turned against the British themselves.” The Scottish writer claims that “there were other bigger Mughal diamonds – the Dari-a-Nur which was taken by Nadir Shah to Iran and the Orlov, now in Kremlin, also taken by Nadir Shah and later passed on to Russia. Why is no one calling their return? The answer is that the Great Exhibition made the Kohinoor the most famous diamond in the world.”

Dalrymple’s book, co-authored by noted UK-based Indian journalist Anita Anand, tells the story of how Kohinoor came to be regarded as the “supreme gem”. Through his book, Dalrymple unravels exquisite information about the diamond as it moves from the Mughal courts to Persia to Afghanistan; from Maharaja Ranjit Singhs durbar in Punjab to the Queen of Englands Crown.

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“It is a very interesting history. We try to trace in the book how it became an icon, when it was never the most famous diamond. When it wasnt the biggest diamond. When the Mughals didnt refer to it anywhere in their writings. Nor did any of the Sultanates,” he said.

According to the PTI reports, Dalrymple quotes, “there is not a single, clear, definitive and unambiguous reference to the Kohinoor before 1750 when it appears in Muhammad Marwis account of Nadir Shah’s campaign. He says, in a Persian passage we translated in this book, that it was attached to one of the peacocks on the Peacock Throne. There is no other reference.”

– prepared by Shambhavi Sinha of NewsGram. Twitter:  @shambhavispeaks