The Role of English in India
The role of English in India has been
controversial right from the time of its introduction. During the British Rule, there were two groups, the Orientalists and the
Anglicists. The Orientalists were in the favour of use of classical languages of India such as Sanskrit and Arabic. The Anglicists
supported English. The Anglicist group included Charles Grant, Lord Moira
and T.B. Macaulay. H.T. Prinsep was the spokesman for the Orientalists.
The British had allotted a sum of a lakh of rupees to educate the native Indians. They wanted to revive and promote literature and the
knowledge of sciences among the people ruled by the British.
Lord Macaulay's speech in the parliament discusses the
issue of what will be the best way to spend that one lakh rupees allotted for educating the Indians.
According to Macaulay the Indian dialects were not suitable for conveying
literary or scientific information. In the Macaulay's Minute he has said that even those who supported the oriental plan of education admit that western
literature is superior to Indian literature. "I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole
native literature of India and Arabia."
So Macaulay proposed a plan to improve the natives of this vast country. "it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to
educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of
persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the
vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit
vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population."
[Source: MACAULAY'S MINUTE ON EDUCATION, 2ND FEBRUARY, 1835]
The proposal was accepted by Governor General William Bentinck and English was introduced in India. According to Kachru, there have been three phases in
the introduction of bilingualism in English in India. The first one of them, the missionary phase, was initiated around 1614 by Christian
missionaries. The second phase, the demand from the South Asian public in the eighteenth century) was considered to come about through local
demand, as some scholars were of the opinion that the spread of English was the result of the demand and willingness of local people to learn the
language. There were prominent spokesmen for English. Kachru mentions two of them, Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833) and Rajunath Hari Navalkar
(fl.1770). Roy and Navalkar, among others, were persuading the officials of the East India Company to give instruction in English, rather than in
Sanskrit or Arabic. They thought that English would open the way for people to find out about scientific developments of the West. Knowledge of
Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic or of Indian vernaculars would not contribute to this goal (Kachru 1983: 67-68).
The process of creating Indian states began after India's
independence in 1947. The main demand was to create states based on language boundaries. This
process of creating states based on languages began in 1953 and even today
there are demands for new states for different language speakers.
After Independence Hindi became the National language and English was given the position of Associate
Official language. It was decided at that time that English should be used for a period of 15 years in which time Hindi should be developed to
function fully as the official language.
After 15 years with raging controversies between the Hindi speaking Northern States and the Non-Hindi Southern States, the importance of
English was felt more acutely for communication among the different States of India which were formed according to the prominent language of the people who
English has become an important second language of the
multilingual population of India. As per the 1991 census there are 114 languages in
India. The Indian Government has marked 18 languages as Scheduled
Languages and 96 are non-specified in the schedule. All Government documents are sent in
Hindi, English and the regional languages.
After 58 years of Independence English is still the Associate Official language. Even today English is considered superior by a large
majority of educated Indians.
The British, during their colonization of India, established universities in India based on British model with emphasis on English.
Later on, the British Christian missionaries established their own public schools with English as first language. To this day including the poorest of the poor,
majority of the people of India want their children to go to English Medium Schools. They think that their children will have better job opportunities if
they study English.
According to researches made in the 1980s about one-third
of Indians study or studied in schools, which have English as medium of instruction. This
number has gone up in the 1990s. For these people, English is in many
senses their first language and it is easier for them to read, write and even communicate in English than in their own Indian languages. This makes India the
second largest English speaking country in the world after USA.
"Based on present trends India will become the largest
English-speaking nation in the world by 2010, crossing the United States, according to the English
linguist, David Dalby, the author of Linguasphere Register of the World’s
Languages and Speech-Communities. Dalby predicts that India will then
become “the centre of gravity of the English language”. Thus, it would seem just as intrusive to
want to remove English from India today as it was to introduce it during the
time of Rammohun Roy and Macaulay."
[Source: Gurucharan Das, Sunday Edition, CCS India]
Now with the Business Process Outsourcing
Projects and Call Centre Jobs have increased the importance of English in India as the most sought after language. The importance given to British
English in School and University education is slowly being replaced by American English in the career front. The media also has influenced the popularity of
"American English, due to the burgeoning influence of American pop culture on the rest of the world, has begun challenging traditional
British English as the premier brand of English spoken in the Indian subcontinent, though this is largely limited to the youth in the last decade or
[Wikipedia: Indian English]