|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Talking Point: Debates: South Asian|
Friday, 18 May, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Should English remain the language of India's administration?
It's an old argument and now it's back again. What should India do with the English language?
More than half a century since independence, English is still largely the language of government and a requirement for many other top jobs. Also with ever increasing opportunities abroad, it's now seen as being more important than ever.
But when a bill was thrown out by the Delhi Assembly earlier this year because it was presented in Hindi, it resurrected calls for an Indian national language.
So is the growing emphasis on English stifling local languages and being used as a class divide? Why does a mature democracy need to use the language of a former colonial ruler?
And how can more than a billion people communicate in a country of so many national languages? Tell us what you think.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Sridhar Pichumani, UK
English has evolved into the business language of the world. Regardless of which country you are from and what language you speak, the common medium for most persons is the English language. The same is true in India, where despite the popularity of regional languages, the language of business is English. I believe that the teaching of English should not only be continued but strengthened in Indian education so that future generations of can play a greater role in world business while at the same time it will serve to bond Indians who speak different regional languages.
Sanskrit should definitely be made the national language. If Israel can resurrect Hebrew, why can't we? The best part is that all Indian languages draw their roots from it, so the North-South divide will die and it can be written in
any of the regional scripts.
Pandyan, San Jose, California, USA
India has a multitude of languages. Clearly no single language can serve as a lingua franca for the country. The solution is to use both languages simultaneously and to educate the population both in the regional language and English as well.
It doesn't matter what people say. English is now a global commercial and cultural language, and people find themselves having to speak it everywhere. To think that Hindi can supplant English is to stick your head in the sand, hoping that the English language will go away. It won't. People are speaking it. So wake up.
Boby Antony, Atlanta, USA
English should be only used for business communications and not as a national language. India is land of many languages and making English as the national language will hurt lot of people. It is better that English is taught is school/colleges etc so that all the Indians are well equipped to handle foreign jobs, but in India Hindi should be used as the national language. This tradition is continuing from past and should be continued in future too.
The entire argument of making English as a national language is not going to serve any purpose. Whether the govt declares English as a national language or not, Indians will continue to learn, speak and cherish their English. English is the most important uniting factor in a country like India with many local languages. Indians are well ahead of others all over the world just because of English.
C. J. Fynn, Bhutan
I do not agree with the people who say English is the de facto national language. But for all practical purposes it is the mostly accepted official language. India is a land of diversities. People's culture is closely related to the language they speak. Let that be like that. English is the natural option for the official language. Let us not impose anything. Let the people choose it automatically.
Instead of improving the quality of English taught in schools the Govt has done a lot to undermine it. Probably because the politicians who run the country cannot read, write or speak good English. English is the language that will give the millions a chance to better their standards of living by competing in the international job arena.
I think this is the only good thing remaining to happen for India besides having good friendly and encouraging neighbours.
We have to ask a basic question as to when and how does a language gain the status of a national or official language. At the present time, though English is the de facto official language of India, it is a lot of political hot air for anyone to remotely consider making it an official language. A few countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have shown the lead in adopting the Roman script for their native languages. Perhaps India - as it often does in many areas - could take a cue from this precedent, adapt the language and call it "INGLISH". Mix English with a generous amount of Hindi and some words from the 17 other official languages and you get pucca "INGLISH" - yar-eh accha hai no?
India is still not all that 'mature' as a democracy. Until there is more give and take, especially between north and south, English is the best bet as official language. We all lose or gain in self-respect, together.
Amit Tonse, USA
Rather than making it the national language, why not introduce a tri-lingual school curriculum? The average Indian as it is speaks three languages, so why not make Hindi, English, and the respective regional languages all compulsory subjects of the schooling system?
On the train from Delhi to Bangalore, I befriended a middle-class family whose children blushed at first but spoke English to their first "furriner". The parents were very proud of their English literacy. It seems to me that the language is everywhere, especially amongst people who want to be part of the so-called global economy.
By not having English as the official business language, it will continue to fragment the country by ethnic lines. This was the Nehru legacy. I also think it is churlish for Indians not to make English on par with other languages, when Sindhi and Nepali (both foreign languages, and spoken by a fraction of the population) are also official languages on par with Hindi and Tamil!!!!
The South of India has always resented the use of Hindi as a national language as it is seen as being a northern influence. English, on the other hand, is spoken and accepted in the South.
Vishnu, India, US Resident
First of all, there are fourteen official languages in India (check out any Indian currency note) and English. All government communication is in English and the national language Hindi. Supporters of English should note that the language is spoken well only by an elite minority (about five percent) and is not the language of the common man, yet.
Those critics who say English should not be spoken, may I ask them what language they are using to write to this forum?
Hindi should be the official language. There should be a uniform language for the country, but if this was English it would erode Indian sovereign culture.
The British Empire replaced Persian by English as a language of power. South Asians should take advantage of this powerful new language of world commerce that gives them an edge over most other Asian nations.
English is a universal language. In India, it would unite the many states rather than divide them as Hindi would, particularly in the South. It is time that we recognise English as being THE language.
This will definitely facilitate easy communications between the diverse parts of India, each with its own language. But care should be taken that one doesn't neglect one's mother tongue. So children should be taught 2 languages: their mother tongue and English.
If people have problems about making English the official language of India, then don't announce the decision formally, but at least make efforts to teach it to everyone, so that people can get around not only in India, but in most of the developed countries as well.
From a nationalistic point of view, the idea of making English the official language of India seems quite outrageous, even insulting. On the other hand, having spoken English all my life, and having realised the advantages I have over others who don't, the concept of cementing the language's position in India seems quite an intelligent thing to do. As a pragmatic and a very open-minded nationalist, I believe India's command of the English language will give it an edge of other non-English speaking countries, in today's open global economy. More importantly though, in a country fragmented by issues of language, a common lingua franca might actually serve to unite us.
Vincent Barreto, UK
Each State has its own mother tongue as the official language.
The federal government uses both Hindi and English as the official languages.
Usage and utility have made English the de facto lingua franca and the language of business and science.
Leave things as they are.
Using the English language is advantageous to communicate in areas like travelling, education, art and business but it shouldn't be a national language. Let it be the foreign language that every Indian should know and should be offered in school.
NO! English is the language to do business in. It should never be the official language. It would cause uproar in India where many languages exist! Let the status quo remain.
Using one language would breakdown barriers between the people and increase unity in India. Using English as the one language would help in making ties with the developed nations and other nations that use the language.
10 May 01 | South Asia
India's language divide
17 May 00 | South Asia
Teaching English the Indian way
01 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more South Asian stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy