English as a World Language and Its Future in India
English is the most important world language today. No language is used as widely as English. The number of people who speak English now exceeds 400 million. In most of the developing countries in Asia and Africa, English is the medium of instruction. They also translate famous English books into their languages. They know that to the diffusion of knowledge and the progress of their countries in various fields, English is indispensable. English provides the readiest access to the cream of world scholarship and to the bulk of World trade English is a key which opens doors to scientific and technical knowledge, indispensable to the economic and political development of vast areas of the world. An increase in the knowledge of English can contribute ‘directly to greater understanding among nations. It, can- also be the means of assuring access to a treasure house of man’s knowledge about himself, about his political experiments, his philosophies and his inner human needs (US Government publication “International Education and Cultural Exchange”). From the V standard onwards English is taught as a compulsory subject in China and Germany.
English is one of the richest languages in the world. Its vocabulary is very large. About seventy per cent of world literature is in English: Two thirds of the world’s correspondence is ‘now written in English. One half of the world’s newspapers are printed in it. Three quarters of the world broadcasts are delivered in English. If we learn English- we will be able to read the famous books written in all other languages. We can also enjoy the works of Shakespeare, Milton and other famous writers in English.
For a country like India, English is indispensable. Ours is a developing country. It requites the latest developments in the field of science and technology. To keep abreast of these developments, English is necessary. We also require English for international negotiations.
In this age of a space travel and the atom, our ideal should not be national but international. The nations of the world now remain inter-dependent. In such a world how can we live, like Alexander Selkirk on a solitary island? “If we give up English under sentimental urges”, says Dr. Radhakrishnan, “we should cut ourselves off from the living stream of ever-growing knowledge.” “What,” Mr. M.C. Chagla is ‘reported to have asked, “is the ultimate result, if we hastily abolish. English when we have no language as a replacement?” (Quirk “The use of English”.) At present .a large number of our people have been able to secure employment abroad. They studied their subjects in English. If they had studied the subjects in our regional languages, they would have been constrained to live in India. It can thus be seen that English has mitigated the acuteness of unemployment in our country.
What should ‘be the medium of instruction at our universities? This is often discussed. Some educationalists think that we must have regional languages as the medium of instruction. Some others argue that it will be unwise if we change the medium.
We admit, if instruction is imparted to students in a regional language, he will understand it easily. We have no objection to continuing the regional language at school.
But the duties and responsibilities of universities are different from those of schools. One of the important tasks of a university is to promote research and make the country go ahead in all branches of knowledge. A university, according to Nehru, stands for the adventure of ideas and for the search for truth. It should welcome knowledge and spread it by teaching and publishing books on various subjects. For research and the teaching of various subjects there is paucity of books in our languages. For both there are plenty of books in English.
If the regional language is used as the medium of instruction; standards of efficiency will go down in administration, industry, the professions and even in universities themselves. It would also mean a permanent setback to the process of national integration.
Our people should get rid of their reluctance to learn, and realize the great service this opulent language has been rendering since it was introduced in our country in the last century. It is English that nourished the plant of Indian nationalism. It is the window to the rest of the world.