Give English Equal Status of Mother Tongues
Prof. K. V. Dominic
Languages are the special gifts of man which make him distinct from other animals. They are manna from heaven and, people, irrespective of space and narrowness of nation, are permitted to use them as they like. No man, society or nation can claim that such and such language is their own or only they have the mastery in it or others’ use of it is inferior and incorrect. Of the hundreds of languages in this world, English alone enjoys the privilege of the global language.
No language, including English, can be called pure or chaste. Modern English is a hybrid language borrowing innumerable words from almost all languages of the world. Languages are growing everyday and English particularly is growing at a rapid rate. Not only the English speaking countries but also the English using countries like India are contributing considerably to the treasury of English vocabulary. Thus English is everybody’s language—the only language which links and integrates the human race together; the only lingua franca which one loves and feels proud of using it as ones mother tongue.
The English used by the English men and Americans are no way superior to the English used by the learned men in the non-English speaking countries. For the same reason a British writer or an American writer cannot claim that his works are superior to the English works from India or other English using countries. It is high time that the westerners should pluck the colonizer’s superiority complex from their minds and the Indians and the other colonized people should resurrect from their inferiority complex.
English Literature in India was once considered an inferior literature to Indian literatures in regional languages as well as English literatures of England and America. Booker prizes to Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai and Arvind Adiga proclaim that English literature in India is as competent and vibrant as British, Australian and Canadian and African Literature. Why Nobel Prize for literature slithered from India after Tagore, is because of reasons other than the quality of literature in India.
Literatures in the regional languages of India have always an upper hand over English literature in India. But English literature in India—literature created in one’s second language—should be encouraged and honoured rather than censured. English should be treated and honoured as equal to mother tongues and be taught in schools from the first standard itself. The governments, both central and state, and publishers should promote Indian English literature because only through this medium India can speak to the world; share her ideas, philosophies, traditions, ethos, cultures, emotions, dreams and beauties. English literature in India deserves more encomium and consideration than English translations of Indian literature in regional languages because translations are thrice removed from the reality and beauty. Awards and incentives shall be given to the English writers in each state along with the honours conferred to writers of mother tongues. Unfortunately English writers in India are treated as underdogs both by the central and state governments. Newspapers, magazines and such print media in the vernaculars totally ignore them.
Fiction has been dominating English literature since nineteenth century. Poetry and poets have been neglected by both the publishers and the readers. The fact that poets are seers and they convey great values and messages through short pieces of writing is deliberately forgotten and never taken into consideration. In this busy, hustling world where people have little time to spare for reading, where visual media enchant the viewers, what suits them most is short pieces like poems and short stories. Time is not far away when people will be enticed by good poems.
Now coming particularly to text books of English poetry in schools and colleges. The colonial legacy and servitude have not left us even sixty four years after our independence. The subject experts and curriculum committee prefer Shakespeare, Milton, the Romantics, the Victorians and Modern and Postmodern British and American poets to Tagore, Aurobindo, Sarojini Naidu, Ezekiel, Kamala Das, and a great number of contemporary English poets in India. If we want our pupils and students to learn about our country—its topography, natural sceneries, ethos, legends, myths, noble traditions and civilizations, urban and rural life, etc. we ought to teach them poems written by English poets in India. The chief characteristics of our English poetry are that the syntax and vocabulary are familiar to our pupils and students. It is akin to their day to day communicative English. So it is the duty of the governments to enforce more and more English poems written by English poets in India in the text books of schools and colleges.
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