English in India
(Part 1 â€“ History & Trend)
The accent and the vocabulary skills of Indians, to speak as if neutral are better than Latinos, East Asians, even better than few Europeans.
To understand why it is so, one would require to study a bit of the influence of British and the impregnation of English into the multi cultural and complex society of India.
Understanding the nature of Indian languages or dialects with a bit of history would enable one to teach and influence from the perspective tutoring â€˜English as second languageâ€™ enriching their conversational skills and enhancing their vocabulary in writing.
Language is improved only by practice and constant usage, whether in usage of meaningful well weighed vocabulary or in the ability to speak fluently and grammatically correct.
India has a country has 14 official languages
LANGAUGES OF INDIA, 1991 CENSUS
Note: They are not in the order of Majority Speaking
Serial No. Language Name Number of Persons
1. Assamese 13,079,696
2. Bengali 69,595,738
3. Gujarati 40,673,814
4. Hindi 337,272,114
5. Kannada 32,753,676
6. Kashmiri 56,693
7. Konkani 1,760,607
8. Malayalam 30,377,176
9. Manipuri 1,270,216
10. Marathi 62,481,681
11. Nepali 2,076,645
12. Oriya 28,061,313
13. Punjabi 32,753,676
14. Sanskrit 49,736
15. Sindhi 2,122,848
16. Tamil 53,006,368
17. Telugu 66,017,615
18. Urdu 43,406,932
Governance of India by British was increasingly difficult as each state had their own language and the need to induce English so strongly as an official language was in the making as early as 19th century.
In the Indian subcontinent, English became the dominant language of communication among the educated classes after the famous Minute of Lord Macaulay in 1833
Lord Macaulay controversial idea that Indian languages would be enriched by the English was debated by Anglicists supporting on one hand and the Orientalists opposing English as a form of medium and favoring Sanskrit. The bill however was passed against the Orientals who couldnâ€™t but accept what was thrusted.
For governance purposes the British searched for Indian mediators and to well educated class of Brahmins. The idea of British was to create a class of Indians who could think the British way and would in opinion taste and intellect behave the same way but still would be discriminated because of their roots and skin.
Apart from British colonial power the MISSIONARIES founded a greater need to teach the gospel of Christ through English.
But India being a secular nation and the majority being hindu werenâ€™t swept by the influence of Bible as doctrine to rule their lives, with Vedas and Upanishads giving a more meaningful approach to live and understand life than the story tale of Eden. Missionaries hence couldnâ€™t spread the language or their goal in a big way. Statistics of religious map shows there are less than 2 percent of Christians.
The missionaries knew it would be a difficult task to change the adults having lived in the tradition and culture as complex and so profound in philosophy and so ancient in history. Their plan was early as 1833 century to groom the younger generation and hence started missionary schools, introducing English as the primary medium of communication and also an excellent opportunity to teach the gospel.
British universities in India were started in mid 1850â€™s and towards the early start of the 19th century there were students including Gandhi started traveling abroad for foreign education.
The leaders of the Freedom Fighter movements were those educated masses who had educated abroad or had their education in English, primarily to either benefit as employers to British administration or in fighting the very same rule.
Even after Indiaâ€™s independence, English remained the main language of India. Officially it was given a status of an assistant language and was supposed to terminate officially after 15 years of Indiaâ€™s independence, but it still remains indispensable and as an important language of India.
With their modern leaderâ€™s support, with the British need for administration and the missionaries alma maters for spreading the gospel, all being in English, suddenly English became an indispensable symbol of the elite.
Higher education abroad as well as in India were offered only by British Universities and hence it would help anyone doing an higher education or wanting to do one, study English as the medium at school level, so it would help in their higher education. Preference was also given to students who knew English well to converse and communicate.
Foreign language means it has no immediate implication outside the classroom. Second language would mean even outside the classroom it could be selectively used in a geographical area. Associate national language would mean it could be used across the entire country but still only by the selective or eclectic few.
Speaking or adapting to a foreign language or even a second language not being oneâ€™s mother tongue, would depend upon how close or far it is deviating from their native language in terms of usage and style of expressing oneâ€™s thought and culture.
The reason for India to do so is pretty simple. The myriad of languages poses a problem even after Post independence where the southern part of India remained and preferred to continue as Non HINDI zone. Hence the only common communication would definitely be nobodyâ€™s language of Indian origin, hence English.
The southern part of India had significant opposition to hindi being a national language, they felt their languages would die in due course accepting hindi and rather preferred and supported English against hindi, which is another booster to English as the only accepted language across the whole region.
ENGLISH IS REFERRED AS THE OFFICIAL ASSOCIATE LANGUAGE in Language of Acts.
Hindi is the national language but English over the years have taken priority also has the second national language in use for the aforementioned reasons.
There would be a significant difference when closely observed between the southerners of India speaking English against to the northerners because the roots of the Aryans (North) the language is Sanskrit and whereas the roots of the Dravidians (South) is Tamil.
The Indian system of languages in schools maintains English as a secondary language as opposed to countries like Far East, or European nations who treat it as a foreign language.
One significant difference between European and Indians speaking the accent of English is that Sanskrit which has been a mother of Hindi and a greater influence in European languages (resulted in Indo-European Linguistic studies)is no longer in use. European languages on the other hand like Latin/Greek/old Norse are pretty much closer in pronunciation and also geographically by the influence of culture.
It has taken such an alarming trend after 50 yrs of independence, where certain political parties have started wanting to have the education system made indianization. â€œmother-Tongueâ€� has taken both a political and linguistic dimension leading to changing the English name of their cities and places to pre independent native language names, one such example is madras now called as Chennai (in local tamil) and Bombay called as Mumbai.
English is a major medium of Communication in Information technology, scientific education, governance, public information & broadcasting, news media etc. It is no longer an essential tool between an Indian and a foreigner but an Indian and an Indian itself having two different mother tongues coming from different states.
All forms of printable media is got a major share of their writings in English, be it Films posters, election posters, magazine front page posters, wall boards, hotel menus, shop names, sign boards, road signs, all major national newspapers.. you name it.
Bilingualism is a given fact in India because of the socio-political, demographic reasons, so many states with so many cultures of their own still under a single country. Bilingualism thus is essential for people who have their friends, family and relatives in different states.
The important point here is that bilingualism is not taught in schools but learnt from childhood and in the neighborhood. More interestingly talking in this transcript Bilingual in English is a totally different ball game. Bilingualism in English is institutionalized and demanded in white collar jobs, government work, university sponsored, society nurtured, an increasing inevitable self-invasion.
Indians have gone far away from their own mother tongue to such an extent citing my own example that, I would prefer to read a Ramayana or Mahabharata or Bhagwad Gita in English comfortably than Tamil or yet to learn Sanskrit. And there are Americans who want to preserve the Indian language from dying trying to learn Hindi or Sanskrit.
My final concluding but a sad point is that India is moving to the extent that if one doesnâ€™t know to read or write in English eventhough he does in his native language he may be in the brink of being called an illiterate.
Articles not covered but may cover in future parts:
1. Linguist practices in Ancient India
2. Bilingualism in India
3. Bengali English
4. Steps to Tutor an Indian in English as effective second language in enhancing oneâ€™s writing, vocabulary and speaking fluency and accent adaptation.