“English language with its great literary heritage has to play a vastly constructive role in the great task of the build-up of free India. It is no longer a language of a particular people or country. English can aptly be called a Global ‘lingua Franca’. We must get ourselves rightly benefited by this universal language, which is a medium for the establishment of an International mutual contact among the nations all the world over. ” Jawaharlal Nehru.
The English language has had a glorious past in India. During the rule of Britishers, English enjoyed its heyday of power. In every Walk of life English exercised a tremendous influence. It became a symbol of fashion and dignity to speak and write in chaste English. But when India became independent in 1947, the tide was turned against it. Since then, the position of English in India has became somewhat uncertain. A radical change has taken place in the statutes and prestige of this language. The question of retention or rejection of this language has given rise to a bitter controversy Teachers, educationists, administrators politicians and diplomats seem to be very much worried about the place of English in the modern set-up of Indian education.
English was introduced by Lord Macaulay to raise a class of English knowing Indians to help the Britishers in running the British Administration of country efficiently. In due course of time, it helped many Indians to get into lucrative Government jobs but at the same time, it denationalized Indians.
The retention of English in India is vehemently opposed on several scores. First of all it is a foreign language and not one of the soil. It is hurtful to our national prestige to continue giving it importance and patronage. Its spelling, pronunciations and syntax are so foreign that very few Indians can claim to be absolutely correct about them. It is, therefore, subject to wrong use Secondly the number of people who can read, write and speak this language is very small in India. Much of the work that is done in English can more easily done in any Indian language. Thirdly, English as a medium of instruction in the colleges and universities of India is doing incalculable harm to the proper intellectual growth of students. A vast majority of students fail to follow the lessons through the medium of English. The very thinking and understanding of the student is warped and stunted under the weight of an in-comprehensible language. Fourthly, the spread of English is detrimental to the growth of Indian culture. Every language is meaningful in its own social context. Hence, English can never mean to Midians what it means to the Britishers. The retention of English in India would only symbolize the complete intellectual slavery of the Indians. Though Britishers gave political freedom to India, they left English as the sign of their cultural conquest.
These objections have been met by the champions of English on different levels. The argument that English has stood m the way of development of our Indian language is not wholly sound. So far as its foreignness is concerned, it is said that if English is foreign, so is Sanskrit. The Aryan invaders in our country brought this language with them. Even Hindi is foreign and outlandish for a majority of South Indians. So the foreignness makes an appeal to false sentiments. As to the argument that it is difficult it is advanced that the question of difficulty is somewhat vague and relative. Every language has its own genius and its own difficulties. The difficulty or otherwise of a language should be adjudged in proportion to its usefulness. As to the argument that very few Indians know English, the point is at once conceded. So would be the argument against any language of the country that will replace English. As far as the difficulty of English; as a medium of instructions is concerned, it need only be said that a majority of standard works in Humanities us well as Science ire available only in English. So long us standard translation of these classical works are not available, it is necessary that the medium of English be retained in our colleges and universities. Then attempts are already being made to naturalize English to suit Indian conditions and Indian social context. A study of English is leading to the enrichment of our culture.
English literature has given us a new source of enjoyment. Our literature was very poor. Our poetry was one-sided and stale. We had no novels or dramas or even short stories. English gave us first class novels, wonderful dramas and excellent short stories. It gave new kind of poetry. It gave us newspapers and periodicals. These periodicals and journals supply up-to-date information of all that is taking place in scientific, philosophic, economic, and political fields. Rightly did Jawahar Lal Nehru say once, “We must not forget for a moment that the English language is the master key to the innumerable compartments of human knowledge. Any attempt to deprive ourselves of this key would mean an attempt intellectual and cultural suicide.”
There is no denying the fact that English is the richest language of the world and that it would be a sin to ignore it. We should not loose balance of mind. It will be an act of foolishness to neglect English altogether. We owe many things to English language. It has initiated Indians into the treasure of Western thoughts and literature. We coma to know the concepts of democracy, self-determination, self-government, scientific development, mechanization and international understanding through English alone. The old soldiers of the war of Indian independence were largely nursed in the cradle of English thoughts and culture.
It is definite now that English should not and will not be given the status it has enjoyed hitherto in the conditions prevailing in modern India, It should not be made compulsory for the Indian students. Its study will be and should be optional. Students of international politics and science, lovers of literature and language may be asked to study it deeply and thoroughly. A free Indian should be guided to study it In the same spirit as he reads French, Russian, or Sanskrit or as a German or Frenchman reads English or any other foreign language.