English is the global tongue today
In a stage of civilization where we are so assimilated globally into an English speaking life, the language no longer stays a foreign one. Yes, the language was brought to us by our colonizers and is at present the language that has colonized the entire world. Yet the colonizer’s tool has been appropriated by the colonized in creating several accents and appropriations of the language.
Language is but a tool of power
India remains a country of hundreds and thousands of languages, many of which do not even have a written script. Dialects and sub-dialects p very often unrecognizable sounding to the mother language, the question of ‘mother tongue’ is a very dicey one. There are tribes in the country whose languages aren’t registered or recognized by the majorities and yet who fall under the jurisdiction of policies to be implemented. When the British came to India, it was a geographic space starkly divided by cultures and people some of whom did not even know of the existence of the other. A primary barrier for the assimilation of these people into a national unit had been the absence of a familiar or known language.
Moreover, as in all civilizations, there is the language of the ruler and a language of the margins. Oftentimes the language of the ruler is so alien to the margins that the margins can never grow out of the shackles imposed on them due to the lack of a medium universalized for articulation and expression. In multilingual demography, language politics plays a big role in structuring power. Colonized India found English to be that unifier, that voice of expression for the oppressed who had been so even before the British came to power.
The deep-rooted power rift that exists
Decades later, when ‘regional language’ or ‘mother tongue’ is introduced as the means of formal education and instruction, not only is the rift between the ruler and the margins divided further but also the possibility of social mobilization is taken away.
India already faces a vast, an immensely vast majority of the population struggling to speak English. However, all textbooks of higher learning, research and even the mode of communication for erudite intellectual think tanks remain to be English. English speaking crowds are hailed as more respectable, score greater social points, and unquestionably have far better chances at knowing the wider world outside and furnishing their selves with more knowledge and exposure needed to succeed in a neocapitalistic world we live in. English is not a language but a means of social fortification and the key to accumulating social capital for a country like ours.
How might changes shape up? A Thought
Privately funded elite urban schools will continue to have English for the medium of communication. So will it have children seeking admission who come from families breathing the language as easily as air. However, for the rural areas, children stumped with communication in regional languages will suddenly face the brunt of huge baggage of unfamiliarity and discomfort when the mode of instruction for higher teaching shifts to a language they don’t have sufficient grip over. And institutions of higher learning or corporate offices aren’t empathetic enough to this cause. The rift between the ones who have already earned their social and genetic capital across generations witnessing cultural and social privilege, and the ones that haven’t, will simply he widened further.
The state of West Bengal stays a living breathing example to this stumping of progress after it did away with English learning for school for nearly a good three decades under the rule of the Left Front government.
Under such a scenario, isn’t there a greater need to unify the country through one common tongue for progress in a world that is known as a ‘global village’ today?