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Language mantra, power tantra

DC | Kancha Ilaiah | 17th Dec 2012

Language is a vehicle for learning as well as expression of ideas; and the link between development of ideas and language is dialectical. An advanced language helps in mentally equipping people — and “people” here includes everyone across the board. On the other hand, an underdeveloped language has its limitations. It keeps people underdeveloped, more so those in underprivileged segments.

The current controversy over using English and Telugu in schools and in public places, including in signboards, in the context of the forthcoming World Telugu Conference in Tirupati has serious implications for modern education and development of the state. The hunger for better English education in government schools even among the poorest of the poor was acknowledged by Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy when he established 6,400 English medium sections in government schools across the state during his chief ministership. He did so by ignoring pressures from the so-called Telugu lovers who insisted that starting English medium schools in rural areas would serve no purpose. But it served a purpose: A new breed of competitors to the urban, English-educated youths is emerging. Further, a new project of the ministry of human resource development introduced this year will see the setting up of 773 more English medium model schools in the backward Mandals.

In addition, the introduction of compulsory teaching of basic English from Class I in all government schools is changing the educational environment as a whole. These steps are bound to improve the level of English education in rural areas. Those who spoke up for Telugu — hypocrites included — who put their own children in the best English medium schools, are worried about the emerging competition from rural areas and the weaker sections of society. Craftily, they once again started a campaign to roll back the advancement of English in the government sector. As a matter of fact, this trend did not confine itself to just one state. Such forces are present in all states. The sub-national linguistic chauvinists are not only checkmating the educational development of the nation but also of historically disadvantaged social groups.

Learning a well-developed language with a global reach releases enormous energies from people who remained suppressed for long years. System-atic learning of any language makes its own demands of labour as well as the time on the learner. Learning a developed language gives more scope for personal advancement by way of acquiring innovative knowledge. Most Indian regional languages are not developed for various reasons. Who is responsible for this underdevelopment of Indi-an languages? Certainly not the SC/ST/OBC segments. His-torically, they were either denied the opportunity to learn those languages or they did not have the wherewithal to learn it, at least not beyond the basic communication level.

Capitalist and democratic development and innovations are based on individual success stories, and also on passing on that knowledge and skills to others. The individual is a laboratory in himself or herself. This laboratory provides the scope for a kind of repeatability as well. Babasaheb Ambedkar, for example, learnt globally communicable English in his very first-generation education and it helped him acquire enormous knowledge. When this writer, for another instance, was trying to evolve as a first-generation English writer from the heavily Telugu-centric state, Ambedkar’s life provided an inspiring example.

Such instances get repeated. Also, when a rural Telangana student of English medium from a lower middle-class family is offered a `80-lakh pay a month in a company, that example inspires many, and prompts them to make and attempt and follow his example. That prompting helps more people acquire innovative skills. But what is important is the medium of learning. A boy or girl educated in a Telugu medium school, college or university cannot aspires, leave alone achieve, great successes in life for the reason that it is the knowledge in English, a pre-requisite, that facilitates such achievements.

The richness of English, its global reach, the extent and variety of knowledge available in it, allow its learners to aim high, experiment and try out or embrace innovative ideas. German, Italian, French and Russian languages are different from our regional languages. These foreign languages have their strengths too. Without a developed Ita-lian language, it would not have been possible for Machia-velli to write his classic book, The Prince, in the 16th century. In the 20th century, political theorist Gramsci wrote his Prison Notebooks that influenced the thinking process across the world. If French was not a developed language, Rousseau would not have written his Social Contract in the 17th century. If German was not a developed language, Hegel and Marx would not have come up with their most transformative treatises. Why is it that such treatises haven’t been written in Telugu, Kan-nada or even in Hindi yet? It is simply that these languages are not developed enough to bring forth such ideas. Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Lenin wrote in Russian, because they had an advanced language at their command.

Back home, Bengali and Tamil have shown some inner strengths and produced a Tagore and a Subramania Bharathi respectively. Yet, their global reach is marginal. Millions across the world read a thinker or a writer not because s/he is forced on people (through colonialism or globalisation) but because his ideas are empowering. Ever since English produced a thinker like John Locke, a litterateur like Shakespeare, an economist like Adam Smith, and a scientist like Newton, it went on influencing the world. Fortunately, we all, underlings included, have that language in our possession now.

By learning English, howsoever difficult it is, even the most backward in linguistic faculties can now hope to take a quantum leap and gain knowledge from a large variety of sources that are in no way available in Indian regional languages.

The Internet is bringing this world of knowledge right into our homes, with little of expense, but in English, and only in English.

Sentiment is a problem of underdeveloped minds. The historically oppressed masses here cannot afford to allow their children to be victims of such sentiments. For the large mass of dalit-bahujans, the advocacy of linguistic nationalism and sub-nationalism is, frankly, a modern trap. There is little doubt that the “mother tongue mantra” is a fad, not a scientifically acceptable educational formula. Those who have not gained anything from such mantras for centuries need not pay heed to them now, in this modern, democratic phase of our national life.

 

 

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5
N.V.Sankaran's picture
by N.V.Sankaran (not verified) on
Mr. Kancha Ilaiah, Not only Germany, France, Italy and Russia had thier own strong language, but, almost all the European Countries had their own languages which they had used very effectively for their development. India too had a very powerful language Sanskrit and as long as it was being widely used, our country too had shown great development in Science, perhaps much more thanthe western countries. But, with the Islamic invasions and colonization by some European countries, Sanskrit was pushed back along with its knowledge contents and we became slaves of Lord Mecaulay, educational system, which made English essential for Scientific development. Had we Indians been able to retain Sanskrit's status as the national language, perhaps we would have been much more developed than the western countries.
santosh J's picture
by santosh J (not verified) on
Mr sankaran, the problem was sanskrit was in the hands of a few and others did not even have the privilege to learn it.Sanskrit for thousands of years was used by a few as an instrument of tyranny like latin was by the church in the middle ages and arabic is even today among the muslim masses. Truth as well as knowledge could be only learnt in these 'special' languages which was controlled by a tiny minority.The tyranny was broken when martin Luther translated the Bible into german, and the common man could read it and the privileged few could no longer have the custody of either truth and therefore of knowledge.The attempt still continues to keep the masses in bondage by keeping them ignorant!!
thomas's picture
by thomas (not verified) on
Yes, knowledgeable people like Kancha IIaliah should first read and understand how the " Clever people working under Islamic Invasion and Brutal thinking-British scholars" research was done how to undermine INDIA. If IIaiah still thinks like this yes they are successful in the endeavors. I have lots of respect to him- you better start thinking in this direction like a true bhumiputra of MOTHER-INDIA
thomas's picture
by thomas (not verified) on
Santosh, The problem is not few people speaking Sanskrit, it was spoken all across Greater India. Till the Outside invasion of Islamic and Colonial forcibly made the peace loving Indian, to kill their own people, India was safe, peaceful and prosperous. Everybody (Colonial and Islamic) were with a certain idea of stripping India of her cultural, spiritual and peaceful principles. If bible is translated to german, and from german to dutch, and from dutch to englisg, and English to Chinese, and Chinese to LATIN again, the jist of bible is lost and it will be a new latin bible. If you want to know the motherhood, a women has to undergo the real pain of 9 months and deliver the baby. Not just by adopting, you can never, ever say the person has undergone the pregnancy pains.
linguica13's picture
by linguica13 (not verified) on
when you place higher value to English, you marginalize your native language. Most of these people will fill service jobs for the western world. Instead of mass adopting English, which will directly lead to language decline and death for the native language, efforts should be made to translate words into native words, and teaching should continue in the native tongue rather than mass English learning. unless of course, you don't value your own cultural tradition and don't care if your language and culture decline.

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