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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Future of English Language


THE importance of knowing English in today's world cannot be denied. But English should not be imparted at the cost of other regional languages. If English has to develop in India, it has to be developed in partnership with other regional languages.

A seminar on English, India and Globalisation highlighted the dangers that might arise if due care is not taken to respect other regional languages. "Indeed English as a language is high in demand which forces parents and schools to ram it down the throats of children resulting in producing a class of people that is neither fully literate in its own language nor trained in English.This is dangerous because a person needs to be at home with languages he communicates with," said Mark Tully, author and journalist, while speaking about the past and future of English language in India at a seminar. Tully emphasised that English needed to be promoted in India in partnership with other regional languages.

The seminar recently organised by the English Speaking Union in association with the British Council in the Capital, brought to light many issues concerning promotion of English language in India. English has played a very important role in India's growth story as India became a preferred destination for business process outsourcing because Indians speak better English than Chinese or South-Asian counterparts.

"The importance of English as the language of a growing Indian economy cannot be denied. But since English is not the only language in multi-cultural multi-lingual India, which has 16 official languages, there is a need to respect vernacular languages. If English is not promoted in partnership with these languages, the people who favour classical languages might prevent the development of English in their respective regions," warned Tully, who was concerned that this clash could reinforce the belief that English is a language acquired by colonial rule. On the other hand, Gurcharan Das, author and journalist, drew concerns of English language becoming the language of the masses. He said, "Learning English as a tool for communication has gained importance across India, in that sense English has got democratised, but at the same time this increasing demand for English has upset the growth of other regional languages.

All the books on science, maths and technology in higher education are in English." But would the teaching of so many languages create a problem for the child? "Indians have a natural ability to be multi-lingual. There is no reason why English can't be taught with other languages and vice versa.It is useful to have English as a second language in schools because it is a passport to the world. We too promote English among non-native English speakers but with respect to the vernacular language," said Valarie Mitchell, director-general, English Speaking Union.

Sunil Sharma
Dil Se Desi Group

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