English and the Global Village

In terms of geographical spread, English already occupies an undisputed position in the world, and a steady expansion in its learning and use around the globe will see it taking an increasing lead over all other languages during the early part of 21st century.

While Chinese is used in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, English is used in as many as 70 counties worldwide. Language experts predict that within a decade or two, it is reasonable to assume that there will be more speakers of English in Asia than in any other continent.

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Besides, India is an increasingly important source of literary activity in English. According to observers, Asia will play an important role in helping to ensure that English serves as a transnational auxiliary language against a multilingual background.

The legacy of English language has left an indelible imprint on the Indian psyche, our freedom struggle, our literature, education and the entire spectrum of science and technology.

English has served as a window to the world. Freedom fighters like Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sir C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. B.R- Ambedkar and others cultivated a world vision.

A literary giant like Rabindranath Tagore and a scientific wizard like Dr. C.V. Raman could stand comparison with literary figures and scientists anywhere in the won Radhakrishnan, who epitomised Plato’s theory of the philosopher-king, interpreted the essence of Hinduism to the Western world in a language intelligible to all.

On the dawn of Independence, while Hindi and other regional Indian languages received a great boost, we did not throw away English as just a foreign language, taking a pragmatic view.

And that decision is now paying rich dividends as India is producing the largest skilled manpower in the world well familiar with the number one world language — English. It is this unique advantage that makes the NTs in India the top ones along with the star institutions in the US and the UK.

We have also produced top writers in English like Sarojini Naidu. Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Khushwant Singh, Raja Rao, Ved Mehta, Kamala Markandeya, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy and several others.

The top class newspapers and magazines in English, published from different cities, have produced an elite class that keeps itself abreast with the latest from the 24-hour English news channels.

India is also a top class publisher in English language titles. In most of the urban areas English is taught right from the nursery class and is the medium of instruction in thousands of schools, colleges and universities across the country. Moreover, use of English by most of engineers, doctors.

MBAs and the vast scientific pool make our youth at ease, wherever they are employed.

Be they the employees of the call centers, software engineers, HR managers, PROs, journalists, media persons working for audio-visual media, anchors in TV channels, film actors, sportspersons, businessmen mechanical or electrical or electronics engineers, Indians have an edge over others in any part of the world Sensing the way the winds are blowing, many institutes have come up to train youngsters in spoken and written English in small cities and towns, where youngsters get no opportunity to speak English even though they might be graduates or postgraduates.

In Karnataka, a bizarre controversy over the study of languages is on. Kannada protagonists want English to be taught from V standard, while other sections insist that the ‘global language’ be taught from III standard. There is yet another section which has been demanding the teaching of English right from the day one.

The dalits who have been supporting the pro-Kannada cause all these years have disassociated from the pro-Kannada movement and are now vociferously supporting the move to teach English right from the first standard. Most of the children and grandchildren of the Kannada protagonists now go to English medium schools. Tuned to the global trends, majority of the people want to swim with the tide.

The cosmopolitan city of Bangalore is looking for cops who know English. With police stations and control rooms logging on to computers, there is a great demand for ‘English’ constables, head constables, assistant sub- inspectors and sub-inspectors to handle computers and file FIRs.

Many of the lower-rank personnel were selected several years ago; while they can read and understand English, they cannot draft letters and speak the language

As a result, IPS officers have to spend a lot of time drafting letters and preparing memos. A large number of Bangalore’s residents are from outside Karnataka working in BPOs or the software industry.

One senior officer has suggested that the organization should hold speaking and writing classes for the policemen.

In 1988, Walt Disney produced Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a motion picture that combined animation and live action to such compelling effect that it won four Oscars and became a modern film classic.

Fifteen years later, Bollywood produced Baghmati: The Queen of Fortunes which was released recently. It is India’s first full-length animated feature film containing 7,50,000 frames drawn by hand, 95 minutes of animation and scenes of Bollywood stars — including Milind, Tabu and Hema Malini — singing and dancing with Cartoon Characters.

According to NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services) Companies, the Indian animation production services sector generated $1.5 billion in revenue in the financial year 2006 alone.

Principally, it became possible with the presence of an English-speaking workforce, high quality software engineers, good studies and low costs.

Foreign producers are involving Indian companies for full-length feature films such as The Legend of Buddha, Gulliver’s Travels and Tommy and Oscar.

The ‘feel good’ factor about India is fast catching on the rest of the world. More tourists are travelling to India — the number jumping from 2.38 million in 2002 to 3-40 million in 2004. With more Multi-National.

Corporations (MNCs) are setting bases in India and more patients coming to India for world-class treatment in five star hospitals, communication is as easy in India as it is back home.

It is high time that the millions of schools across the country provided the best possible education in the English language. At present, except for some of the public schools in the metros and other big cities, the standard of English as taught in most of them is below average. It has been found that even graduates and postgraduates are not fluent in English, let alone developing the best communicative English.

Grammar is seldom taught and few can write correct sentences. This sort of affairs should be done away with. Recruitment boards are occasionally dreadfully shocked over the poor communication skills of the candidates. We need dedicated and well-trained teachers for teaching the students about all aspects of English language.

This is a must for all schools, colleges and universities, if India is to provide the best manpower within the country and outside. China knows the edge India has over it by virtue of its greater command over the English language. It has already started classes in English for its citizens.

In most of the villages and small towns reading habit has come down and even the educated families are satisfied with just reading the regional newspapers. Children should be asked to read English newspapers or magazines and listen to the telecast of English news. No language can be learnt overnight.

Command over spoken and written English comes only through constant practice. All this does not mean that we have to ignore our mother tongue or any of our regional language.

By promoting the English language — by making students gain a good command over speaking and we are enhancing the general knowledge of children by helping them access the best books on any subject, technical and non-technical, and the best reframes telecast every day. A student who has general knowledge at his fingertips and who can communicate his thoughts with perfect ease and clarity is an asset to any company or department.