Since the beginning of globalization & connectivity, we’ve been seeing the fast-paced spread of English. It has now become the language of the world. Almost everyone out there prefers speaking English than other language, and those who can’t speak are regarded as less educated & are often ignored.
Since my childhood or maybe my school career, I’ve been observing people advising to speak in English. It’s like a primary requirement for starting your education. It’s a requirement for every good job. There’s a common believe that English makes you smarter & those who can speak in English are regarded as highly educated. If you’re studying in an English medium school, you’re assumed to be smarter than those who are studying in non-English medium schools. There’s something special that people find in English that made them think of it as language of literate & smart. So we can say that being able to speak in English means being smarter. And further, to some extent, we can say that everything written or presented in English is kind of regarded as standardized & high quality, and unfortunately, it’s a common psychology. But do you really become smarter than others by speaking in English which is the same as other languages?
In order to answer this, let me ask you guys – what’s there in English that other languages don’t have? Take at least 2 languages & compare them with English. For e.g., if you’re an Indian, take your mother tongue & Hindi (national language), & compare them with English & think of the difference you feel from inside while speaking English & these 2 languages. Do you feel smarter while speaking English & dull while speaking these 2 languages? I think most of your answers informally would be that English makes you more comfortable & feel you smarter. May be someone will also say that there’s no difference, just to create an impression. But honestly speaking, almost all of us feel smarter & more literate by speaking English. It’s a way of showing how smart & educated you are. Moreover, you take more pride by being able to speak English especially when others around you can’t speak. Since our very school career, we start learning about the importance of the language & are often asked to use it in practice. So we form a mentality that English makes & shows us smarter. But what led us to treat English the way we do? Is there something special in the language itself that led us to do so?
If you’re among those who have studied history till the Modern Period, you might well know that most of the parts of the world were colonized by British empire & influenced their (countries which were captured) culture, education & way of living to some extent. Though they were treated as outsiders, there was an attraction of people towards western lifestyle & they wanted to follow them. Also British themselves tried to bring their lifestyle, culture & education to their colonies. In India, Thomas Macaulay (as far as I remember history) implemented British system of education. The language English was also a part of it. For them, knowledge of Western World was best & others are not worth studying. And they started teaching in English. Those who were influenced by British ways of living & wanted to show themselves as more literate started following English education. And people started treating it as language of educated & literate & English made an impression as a high standard language. Also those who wanted to get job as British official had to know English. So this was also a reason people studied the language. After independence of India, as majority of people in South India was not well-versed with Hindi, Hindi was taken as official language & English as a subsidiary official language. So English stayed with us. Now, this was how English arrived in India.
In India, there’re 22 scheduled (or regional) languages & Hindi as the national as well as official language. But still, people show off by speaking English. But why do people do so? The only reason is that since we started getting English education, we adopted a psychology that English is the language of literate. We used to think of Western culture as superior to us. So it happened that we started appreciating English more than other languages. Moreover, for any good job, you’re expected to be fluent in English.
But what’s & where’s the problem actually??
There’s no problem with the fact that English has become the language of the globe & that it’s a big requirement to communicate with the world. But the problem is with the fact that we consider those who can speak in English smarter & more educated than those who can’t. Languages are just a way of communicating with each other. What you say is more important & not how you say or which language you use. English is a language to communicate with everyone in the world because most parts of the world are influenced by British culture. So, to communicate with those who use languages differrent to ours, English becomes mandatory language for communication. But that doesn’t mean those who can’t speak English are less educated than those who can.
Many people claim that exams (like JEE in India) should be conducted in any language students want & not just in English & Hindi. Many in fact criticize English education. But the fact is that in a period of drastic changes, English influenced most parts of the world & we’re well-adapted to it. So there’s no reason we should exclude English or criticize it at this time. Also in this period of globalization, we all need to learn the language which is universal. So, you like it or not, English is a big requirement of the time. But that doesn’t mean that you should force someone to learn something which he/she gets difficulty or doesn’t want. So, for exams & other purposes too, we can adapt regional languages to avoid inconvenience. And the biggest problem we’re facing is that there’s a stereotype that those who can’t speak in English are not that much educated. It’s just a way of communication. The most important thing lies in your thought, in what you say. Smartness comes through your knowledge & confidence in your work. No language or any means of communication can bring smartness. You’ll be confident by saying something positive than something negative.
In a diverse country like India, in order to communicate, everyone needs to know Hindi. Everyone speak their mother tongue or regional languages. Hindi itself has many dialects. But in order to understand everyone’s words, we need a common language & that is Hindi in India. It’s not important how did it become popular, but the important thing is that right now most people know this language. So, it’s a requirement for communication in India. But that doesn’t mean that those who can speak Hindi are smarter than those who can’t & that Hindi makes you more educated. Likewise, due to colonization of most parts of the world by British, English became popular. So in order to communicate with people living in other parts of the world, we need to learn English. Thus, it’s a requirement. Also if every country starts to say that they’ll be using their own language in communication with everyone out there, will it be possible to communicate without a translator?? There’re hundreds of national/official languages in the world. So we’ve to learn them all which is impractical in daily life. So no matter how, English emerged as global language, so we should follow that alone to communicate as most people know it & as it is just one language, those who don’t know can even learn it easily.
But in the end of the day, there shouldn’t be any prejudice on the basis of what people speak. Languages are never important. Only what you speak does matter. And quality, standard, education are reflection of your thought, of what you say, & not of the language you use or the quality of the language. In the beginning, I asked a question – Is there something special in the English language itself that led us to give it more preference than others? Answer is no. Every language is rich in its qualities. English is same as other languages. But as we were more attracted to Western culture & British colonization itself formed a picture in the mind of people that British education or culture is richer than ours.
In a nutshell, without taking it further, I want to conclude that quality doesn’t lie in the body of flesh; it lies in the soul. Similarly, quality lies in what you speak & not how you speak or languages you use to speak. I don’t know what’s happening everywhere, but I’ve noticed that we give more preference to English than others & often ignore those who don’t know English. Believe it or not, many people form this mentality though they don’t directly express it. Though English is a requirement to communicate with the world, there shouldn’t be any prejudice on that basis. Languages are just ways to convey your thoughts. It’s just your thoughts that create difference.
Copyright©2011-13 Sandeep Deva Misra