GUEST POST WRITTEN BY
Sahith Aula Forbes Magazine “The Trouble With English in India”
Mr. Aula is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Emory University.
Imagine living in a nation where you, a member of the majority, are unable to read the label of the medicine you must give your child, the menu at a local restaurant or even the warning signs of the road; a place where you are unable to comprehend the government document officiating your driver’s license, tax filing or marriage. This is the world that hundreds of millions of Indians live in simply because the elite prefer English. This discrimination has become so systemic that the elite and middle classes send their children to English private schools while the vast poor send theirs to the government schools of their mother tongue. One need not mention that universities and even government jobs require fluency in English, as mandated by the ruling elite. Therefore, a person’s socioeconomic status in Indian society is approximately in line with his or her fluency in the language. In other words: a new caste system.
I remember walking through the airport in Chennai (formerly Madras) and seeing signs in 4 languages, 3 with different alphabets and then English. Indians usually speak their state language, some of their neighboring languages and at least a bit of English as well as Hindi. Speaking is the lowest level of difficulty in learning a language, reading , next and writing is the most difficult. So it is obvious that people at least need to talk. English is definitely the language of the educated, elite class and a throwback to the English occupation. The same thing happens in Europe with the prolixity of countries and travel back and forth. If we in the US had neighboring states speaking other languages, we would be forced to learn at least rudimentary words.