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Why Is India So Obsessed With The English Language?

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I am a part of the privileged class in India, who got the opportunity to study in an ‘elite’ English-medium school. We, as a society are so obsessed with English, we look down upon those who cannot speak English as well as others. Many Indian parents have tried to remedy the problem of lack of opportunity in their generation by sending their children to English-medium schools.

Hindi might be our ‘official language’ along with several other regional languages, but there is a group in the country, belonging to the certain sect of society that looks down on everyone who doesn’t speak English fluently. This trend is a hangover of the British colonial rule, which puts English-speaking people on a pedestal.

Many such schools have mushroomed across India, many of which lack quality, some even lack recognition from the Government. Kerala is one such state which in spite of over a 93% literacy rate, has often abandoned its own native language Malayalam, due to this English obsession. Unfortunately, only children from relatively rich families get to attend and learn at English-medium schools.

We live in a country where resumes are rejected if you can’t speak English fluently over your qualification and expertise. This obsession has created the feeling that only speaking English is your passport to leading a prosperous lifestyle.

Of course, English opened the doors to the outer world. It helped us to connect with people across the country and be treated with more respect. So what should we do? Fight for our mother tongue? Or learn and speak the language that will give us a position among the polished society?

Many people in other countries speak English as a foreign language and know enough to speak a few phrases to travel. English is spoken by about 150 million Indians, which is about 10% of the total population. India’s obsession with English holds us back in many ways. I would say that don’t let people make fun of you for speaking your mother tongue or listening to music and movies in a regional language. There are still many people in this country who can’t speak or understand English, and that’s okay.

You could see many parties or events play nothing but Justin Beiber and Ed Sheeran because it’s cool. There are karaoke bars with English songs often sung by people who have no idea what the lyrics mean. There are people who learn English through music videos and American television shows, they try to put on an accent. One can easily figure out the accent from their conversation where they fail terribly in trying to imitate.

This obsession with English-medium schools and use of English was created with Western Christian Education system supported and funded by the British Empire. Indian Government is still continuing the policies made famous in the Macaulay minute favouring English over other languages.

Countries like Japan and South Korea learned science, technology and business in Japanese and Korean without switching to English medium. So is it time that we, as a society give up this English obsession and discriminating against those who can’t speak proper English. Europeans are learning their language to do business with them, instead of them learning English. Their policy is that we are great if you want to do business or trade with us, speak our language. We seem to do it the other way.

Don’t let someone shame you for embracing your native language. Europeans visit us to learn our language, culture and values. They don’t come to see another version of their own culture.

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  1. Anjali Agarwal

    I agree with most of it but I am sorry you can’t compare India to Japan and South Korea. We are a developing country unlike them and we can’t say ‘if you want to do business with us, learn our language’. It is our advantage as a developing country that people in India are bilingual, even trilingual. I am not defending English. I agree we should have stuck to Hindi as our one language that unites us. But I think it’s just too late. Isn’t it why you’re writing this in the same language? That’s because of the vast reach and the impact English has on us today.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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