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India’s unending obsession with the English Language

And it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.

Courtesy of 123RF on Google Images.

I have been meaning to put out this post for a long time. It’s a bit personal for me, I was a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi with the duty to correct everyone ’s grammar and pronunciations. I used to look down upon people who didn’t know English. I still feel guilty for what I used to do…

As rightly said by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.”

The whole purpose of a language to exist is to fulfill the need for a verbal form of communication. English is just of the many languages that has attained a status far above than any other language and it won’t be hyperbolic to say that people who speak English are revered in my country India.

In India, one of the basic aspirations of the parents who are from lower or middle classes of the society (not very well off) is just that their child should be able to communicate in angrezi. This should give a rough idea about the obsession of people with English, that it has become an aspiration!

Here, English is no longer a language it has become a caste or rather a social class. English is often considered to be language of the rich, educated, sophisticated, and powerful people who have a very high social standing and naturally belonging to a superior class. People who speak other languages are judged, dismissed, and often considered inferior or underdogs.

It has almost been internalized to look up at people with good English, it’s almost involuntary and will take ages to change that. Even I have not been able to stop judging people for the language they speak, but I am trying my best to ignore and dismiss the internalized judgment and hopefully, that judgment popping in my head will stop eventually; even now if someone is putting forth a set of good arguments in Hindi, you will consider him or her to be inferior or less educated than to the person speaking English and making unintelligent arguments. It’s just so involuntary that it can be deemed as reflexive too. Let Thomas Macaulay’s vision go to his grave and stop being a slave.

So let it be what it is, just a language; which happens to be one of the widely spoken languages in the world due to British colonization. It is completely fine to not know English. It’s just a language and it’s high time we start treating it like one and stop the illogical and absurd judgment that has been deeply rooted in our brains. Judging others because of language or the way they speak is just not done. Moreover not knowing English is no reason to feel inferior and definitely not a parameter to judge people. Thus, stop the bias where we are accustomed to respecting the person speaking English and denouncing another for speaking any other language.

I don’t want to mislead anyone, the English language has been given a lot more importance since the globalization of the Indian Economy in 1991 & even now it is undoubtedly very useful.

Students are judged upon how good their command over English is and in fact, even some intelligent hardworking students are rejected by recruiters since they cannot speak fluent English which is a part of their so-called important ‘communication skills’. To even get a job at a call center you need to know English; thus English is deemed to be a skill. But this doesn’t seem to affect China, Korea, or Japan for that matter of fact; they don’t consider their own socio-culture to be less or inferior than the western culture like many people do and thus aren’t adopting the same.

Another thing that bothers people who try to speak their broken English is pronunciations!

Let me tell you, “No Pronunciation is right or wrong, we are speaking Indian English and whatever pronunciation we deem to be right is right because now it is our language, it is India’s English.”

In my opinion, I think the only reason why we started heeding English so much in India is to blur the differences between North and South India in terms of language.

Also, Indians make up 17.7% of the world population so even if we decide to speak in Klingon or Dothraki or Sindarin or even Gibberish it ought to be recognized and become one of and most spoken languages in the world! (Just an unsuccessful attempt at trying to be funny.)

It’s high time someone said this.

I am not telling you that speaking English is wrong or something like that. I’m just saying stop the bias and let a language be just a language and don’t be slaves to the instruments of communication created by Great Britain. Don’t be ashamed to speak your language, one in which you’re comfortable and you think in.

And yes also not everyone who speaks in English is trying to flaunt it, some people have just taken up English as a native language.

The Indian Film Industry has produced movies like Hindi Medium, English Vinglish, Queen, Half Girlfriend to highlight this issue. But some producers frequently take a dig at actors who do not speak fluent English. They have a fake accent and show off vocabulary and it irks them when they are not elevated for their eloquent and articulate speech. People like Shashi Tharoor who are exalted to a different status just because of their choice of words which are from different corners of Oxford dictionary. But there so many Luminaries who are more than well versed in Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bengali, Farsi, etc but they or their work is not recognised at all and just ignored right away because it is not in English.

I reiterate, learn English to the maximum proficiency, it is definitely a beautiful language but put an end to the condescending attitude towards people who do not speak English.

P.S. The basic purpose of a language is to communicate and as far as you’re able to do that don’t bother; Just hire a translator with good English just like Narendra Modi did. ( Another unsuccessful attempt.)

Please don’t insinuate that not knowing English language is a barrier to success because it most definitely is not.

Also Read on Medium:

  • Why aren’t we letting other people succeed ?

Why aren’t we letting other people succeed ?

  • Arnab Goswami ‘attacked’

Arnab Goswami ‘attacked’

  • The Night Sky

The Night Sky.


India’s unending obsession with the English Language was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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