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Skip English, focus on Indigenous Languages for India’s Development

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By Harshmeet Singh

“A common perception in India is that Indians need English to succeed. But is it the other way around in reality?”

The sky high vision and aim of becoming a world power that we carry with respect to our nation, are based on an extremely shaky education system which considers mimicking western theories the best way to impart knowledge.

With such a rich culture which is renowned worldwide, you would imagine that Indian students of social studies and humanities would carry with them enviable knowledge of Indian traditions, language and vedic sciences. But unfortunately, all our education system offers to them is western ideas and western thoughts.

Our Anglophonic education system is majorly responsible for a continuing colonized mindset that regards English as a mark of superiority. As the African and Asian nations tread the path of development, their share in the global GDP will see a surge in the coming decades. The economic influence of the English-speaking nations is set to dip in the near future.

With Spanish giving a tough competition to English in the US, English is looking for an emerging economic power that would save its status as the global language. In order to rope in Indian audience and viewers, a number of US and UK news channels have now started covering news from the Indian perspective.

India adopted a three-language for its education system in 1960s, when the Indian economy looked up to US and UK. With English taking the center-stage in this policy, the regional languages started losing ground. Despite vast changes in the economy and India’s global standing, we never thought of re-visiting our language policy for education to save our indigenous languages.

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Some of the most renowned scientists in the world have taken birth in non-English speaking nations, thereby ruling out the perception that English is necessary for professional success in the field of Science and Mathematics. Though knowledge of English, like any other language, is certainly a handy skill to have, it is a myth that English is ‘necessary’ for professional success.

There are innumerable examples to break this myth. The onus of breaking this myth for the Indian youth lies with the Government which needs to ensure that there are ample employment opportunities for those who chose to give English a miss, and rather concentrated on other skills.

The first step in this regard would be ensuring that there is high quality educational material in indigenous languages for the students at all levels. The UGC initiated Bharatvani project is a major step in this regard. Proposed to be developed as the largest language portal in the world, the Bharatvani project aims at delivering knowledge in almost all Indian languages, with the help of multimedia formats. It plans to aggregate multimedia content from the government, writers and other non-governmental organizations and put it on a common platform. UGC also plans to rope in publication houses and different universities to make it a success.

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Governor humiliated for addressing in Hindi

  Incidentally, Hindi is a very powerful language, if we go deeper. This language is so self-sufficient that it is one of the direct descendants of Sanskrit, the oldest and the perfect language in the world

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Sri Ganga Prasad was criticised for giving his speech in his native language and not English in the legislative assembly.

Salil Gewali, Shillong

  • Hindi is one of the official languages of India
  • Sri Ganga Prasad faced criticism for giving his speech in his native language
  • This makes one question if English is becoming dominant in India

Sri Ganga Prasad faced a barrage of criticism when he delivered his maiden speech in the National language in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly. Even one of the legislators abruptly walked out of the assembly hall while the Governor was digression the session. Thus, the Governor was intensely scoffed at and humiliated through the social media and other news media.

Well, everyone has their right to disagree and criticize. Of course, we do not disagree that the majority of people in Meghalaya are not fluent in Hindi.  This is not a big deal. But disrespecting the language could be.

Is Hindi being ignored as the nation moves more towards English? Wikimedia Commons

This news also made many of my facebook friends abroad pretty curious.  One very learned scholar – Avital Markel from New York speaks out her mind with a dose of humor: ‘why is there so much noise when your governor delivered the speech in the language which is originally from India itself? I know another popular name of this country as Hindustan, not “Englistan”, I believe.’ Another Yoga teacher from Las Vegas — JM Palmer remarks — ‘it’s ridiculous that people can disrespect their own language. I can easily pronounce a good many Sanskrit terms. I personally have tremendous respect for India’s Sanskrit and other languages because they are the languages of Yoga and wisdom of spiritual dimension’. Mr. Palmer is a spiritual seeker who regularly visits India.

                 I think both Avital and Palmer views resonate with what the citizens of other countries feel. At least with those who have not been insanely fascinated by the English language like some Indians do. It’s much observed in the country that one without English speaking skills is obviously looked down upon.  The ‘inferiority complex’ vis-a-vis the West and its external trappings often hold many Indians back in asserting that they are Indians. This syndrome is getting more pronounced among the certain class of intellectuals and the snobbish folks. This has already taken a very ugly shape. The trait of sedition is quite noticeable amount the certain class of citizens.

                    Anyway, if we have regularly tolerated the bunches of fraudsters, rapists, and murderers in the parliaments and state assemblies in the country, why could we survive a speech of few minutes in Hindi and so on? 

Also Read: Is Hindi The National Language of India?

On the contrary, the citizens of very developed nations such as China, Russia, Germany, Portugal, France will never lose their calm when their leaders speak in the native languages. Actually, they all speak their own languages. The imperialist British till the date has literally failed to cast its spell on them. The citizens of those self-reliant countries rather swell their chests and claim their superiority and what they are due for.

                          If I am not mistaken Hindi is still recognized as the national language of the country. So, even if we are unable to learn the language, it would do jolly good if we do not disrespect it at all. Here it will be quite relevant to cite a case of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at United Nations General Assembly. I believe, nobody walked out of that international summit on 27th Sept 2014 when the Prime Minister delivered his speech in Hindi. Thank God, we didn’t have any leaders from Meghalaya who might have cringed with embarrassment and walked out! That particular speech by PM Modi in UN was so applauded that it subsequently served to motivate the member countries across the world to vote in favor of declaring a Yoga International Day for 21st June.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a Padhma Bhushan awardee for his contribution in Hindi Literature. Pexels
Hindi is a powerful language and ought to be used more. Pexels

                        Incidentally, Hindi is a very powerful language, if we go deeper. This language is so self-sufficient that it is one of the direct descendants of Sanskrit, the oldest and the perfect language in the world. On the robust ground of India’s Sanskrit the Modern linguistic stands. Kudos to those unprejudiced and rational intellectuals such as Sir William Jones, Johann Goethe, F. Schiller, Franz Bopp, F. Schlegel, Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, Noam Chomsky who discovered the incredible literary gems in the languages of India.

                           Finally, for those who sniff at the languages of Indian origin and the wisdom and culture associated with them, I would like to share just one opinion by their much celebrated English master. Here exclaimed the American British Nobel laureate TS Eliot: “Two years spent in the study of Sanskrit under Charles Lanman, and a year in the  mazes of Patanjali’s metaphysics under the guidance of James Woods, left me in a state of  enlightened mystification.” I think we should not walk out of the “truth”. India has for ages been enriching the intellectual treasure troves of the West. But, what is a huge paradox is that our Indians are either not aware of it all or they do not want to acknowledge it.