Tuesday March 26, 2019
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‘India can’t progress without promoting Indian languages’

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By Sapan Kapoor and Riya Yadav

Sankrant Sanu – an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon – seems to be a man on a mission to secure justice for the Indian languages, hopping from one place to another, delivering lectures in schools and universities, educating the youth about the pressing need to create equal opportunities for those who wish to study in their mother tongue.

He has a reason to do so.

“Throughout the world no country has been able to progress without developing its own languages,” Sanu, an IIT alumnus, tells NewsGram in an interview, adding that English was the main reason behind India’s backwardness.

“English is the reason behind our backwardness.”

sanuSanu learnt this from his experiences of travelling to as many as 25 countries and observing their education systems at close quarters.

He says people wrongly assume that English is the way for India to progress, for his experience suggests otherwise. Sanu recalls his sojourn in the Israeli port city of Haifa while working for Microsoft and handling a team of software developers.

“At first I was flabbergasted to learn that within Microsoft development centre they used Hebrew for all operations. Besides, their number one engineering college used Hebrew, which was much higher ranked than our IITs. Later, in Russia while on the search for talents, their programmers spoke no English during interviews.

“We had interpreters for this purpose and I hired them not because of their English but because they were excellent programmers… I thereafter travelled to 25 countries to see how people were promoting their own languages unlike India which seemed to be obsessed with English and, as a result, it is one of the major reasons of our underdevelopment,” Sanu, attired in his staple kurta, says.

Moreover, while travelling through Indian villages, he took some IQ test papers with him. His intent and assumptions were that he would find bright children in Indian villages and the results thereof surprised him. In his sample of over 100 students, both in rural and urban schools, he found that rural children surpassed the urban ones by a good margin. However, the fact of the matter was that a large number of these students would usually drop out after class 8, as most of the competitive exams were in English.

“Learning English is no duck soup, as it’s a very tough language and takes years of painful labour and patience to become proficient. Therefore, a student could be a math genius but just because of his poor English, he would be deprived of all the opportunities he deserves. Nothing could be more atrocious than this,” Sanu opines.

Colonial hangover

So, why are we so obsessed with English? The answer is ‘colonial hangover’.  Even after our so-called independence, we have somehow kept our slave mentality intact. We have this great Indian inferiority complex. Those who speak Indian languages are seen as inferior beings and are discriminated against. According to a study, Sanu shares that only 10 per cent Indians know English; rest of 90 per cent literate Indians study in Indian languages.

“English is there because the state favors it and discriminates against Indian languages.”

“English is the medium of instruction in IITs and IIMs. Isn’t it? It is a pity that while a child in South Korea can become a doctor after studying in Korean, a boy in a Tamil Nadu hamlet cannot become one after studying in Tamil. Studies show that children learn the best in their mother tongue. Original creative thinking cannot happen in a foreign language. The education system has become so divorced from reality… BPO is not innovation, it’s coolie work,” Sanu laments.

The way forward

“We need a revolution and have to create a mass movement like India Against Corruption. Nayi kranti laani hogi, bhasha ki kranti jiske bina desh unnat nahi ban sakta (A new revolution is the need of the hour, the revolution of language sans which the country cannot develop). It is a matter of great regret that when the world is promoting their own languages, India is rooting for English.”

Therefore, Sanu has come up with a Bhasha Niti or Language Policy for a new India.

One of the proposals of the Bhasha Niti is to follow the European Union model. The EU has 24 equally supported languages. If someone writes a letter in any of the 24 languages, they would get a reply in that language. This is how a central government should function, he suggests.

Sanu shares an example in this regard. He spoke about a person who wrote to the PMO in Hindi a few days ago and got the reply in English. As a result, he wrote back to them questioning their response. Shouldn’t the PMO support all the languages?

“We need to put pressure on the government to change India’s language policy and create equal opportunities for those who wish to study in Indian languages. It’s a myth that the world is running after English. Even the MNCs work and adapt to local languages. For instance, for a small language like Turkish, Microsoft localises but not for Indian languages.

“It is because of our slave mentality. Why should the job interviews be conducted in English? One of my policy suggestions is that the candidate should be able to choose the language he wishes to give his interview in. IITs can have their curricula in local languages, same goes with IIMs and other government institutes as well.”

Sanu says, for this to happen, the court system should support Indian languages as well. It is a travesty of justice that in the Supreme Court people can only practice in English.

How can people have justice in a country where they cannot represent to a court in their own languages? You have people coming from the rural background and they do not understand what the lawyer is saying to the court.

“For heaven’s sake, they cannot even correct the lawyer if he says something wrong. In this manner, we are denying justice to people and holding the country back. We are creating nothing but a generation of cripples who neither know their own languages nor are they proficient in English.”

Sanu also has a subtle message for PM Modi.

“Unless Skill India means imparting skills to Indians in their own languages, it would not yield any positive results.”

He believes technology can help solve the language issue to a great extent. For instance, his guide, Professor Sangal, has come up with a software that can translate languages while keeping Sanskrit as its base.

Sankrant has been actively involved in writing, consulting and social projects. His writings have appeared in various publications in India, USA and UK. Sanu’s book the English Language Myth or Angreji Bhasha Ka Bhram Jaal has received many accolades.

  • aspirenetwork

    I somewhat disagree to the point of view here. India is a multilingual country and not like Russia or Korea. It becomes very hard if the medical science also becomes in regional languages as the states can’t afford to make such study materials limited to their own languages.

    The ministries are struggling to integrate basic amenities and doing this will add to their chaos. Learning English hasn’t been effective due to inability to practice it. Using technology in learning a language will be much more effective than just a classroom training.

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  • aspirenetwork

    I somewhat disagree to the point of view here. India is a multilingual country and not like Russia or Korea. It becomes very hard if the medical science also becomes in regional languages as the states can’t afford to make such study materials limited to their own languages.

    The ministries are struggling to integrate basic amenities and doing this will add to their chaos. Learning English hasn’t been effective due to inability to practice it. Using technology in learning a language will be much more effective than just a classroom training.

Next Story

India to Launch Electronic Intelligence Satellite Soon

In January, the space agency launched a defence imaging satellite Microsat R for the DRDO

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TESS, rover, NASA, mercuryKeplar, NASA
TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this conceptual illustration obtained by Reuters on March 28, 2018. NASA sent TESS into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. VOA

India on April 1 will launch an electronic intelligence satellite Emisat for the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) along with 28 third party satellites and also demonstrate its new technologies like three different orbits with a new variant of PSLV rocket, ISRO said on Saturday.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a new variant of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket will first put the 436 kg Emisat into a 749 km orbit.

After that, the rocket will be brought down to put into orbit the 28 satellites at an altitude of 504 km.

This will be followed by bringing the rocket down further to 485 km when the fourth stage/engine will turn into a payload platform carrying three experimental payloads: (a) Automatic Identification System (AIS) from ISRO for Maritime satellite applications capturing messages transmitted from ships (b) Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS) from AMSAT (Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation), India – to assist amateur radio operators in tracking and monitoring position data and (c) Advanced Retarding Potential Analyser for Ionospheric Studies (ARIS) from Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) – for the structural and compositional studies of ionosphere, the space agency said.

The whole flight sequence will take about 180 minutes from the rocket’s lift off slated at 9.30 a.m. on April 1.

The 28 international customer satellites (24 from US, 2 from Lithuania and one each from Spain and Switzerland)- will weigh about 220 kg.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid bennu
Satellite To Conduct Biological Experiments In Space, Plans Space Kidz India. VOA

“It is a special mission for us. We will be using a PSLV rocket with four strap-on motors. Further, for the first time we will be trying to orbit the rocket at three different altitudes,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan had earlier told IANS.

The PSLV is a four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.

In its normal configuration, the rocket will have six strap-on motors hugging the rocket’s first stage.

On January 24, the ISRO flew a PSLV with two strap-on motors while in March, it had four strap-on motors.

The Indian space agency also has two more PSLV variants, viz Core Alone (without any strap-on motors) and the larger PSLV-XL.

Also Read- UAE Launches ‘Lose to Win’ Programme to Help Overweight Employers to Shed Extra Kilos

The ISRO selects the kind of rocket to be used based on the weight of satellites it carries.

The ISRO will also be launching two more defence satellites sometime in July or August with its new rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

In January, the space agency launched a defence imaging satellite Microsat R for the DRDO. (IANS)