English Vinglish

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 At the coffee shop

 “English language is crucial for a nation’s further development.” He muttered.

“No!” I responded instantly, “Do you know how many countries that use the English language in their official websites are from the under-developed category?”

 “Well, isn’t that because that’s the only way to compete in the international market?” he replied in a smug manner.  

“That’s exactly how you’ve been conditioned to think”, I looked him straight in the eye. “Take an example of Japan, until recently they were the second largest economy of the world, and when you take a look you will find none of them speaking in English. Conducting major transactions only through their local language, they have managed to export a huge fraction of their products to the world. These range from various automobiles to book series, electronic gadgets and home devices. Everyone in Japan communicates in Japanese, which means they all get to contribute to the economy. Doing transactions in English would only hinder their progress, having to spend extra resource on learning the foreign language, making them dependent on other economies such as the United States. There is a good communication between the side that supplies and the side that demands. Focusing within themselves in their own way of communication has helped them grow to become one of the biggest economies in the world”. 

“And?” he asked in an unfazed manner.

“There are many English speaking countries still struggling to keep up with the economy while Japan’s non-English speaking neighbors like China and South Korea have already established themselves in the global market”, I continued.

“So clearly, English is not the crucial factor needed to develop a nation. In fact, the Chinese government has banned most of the Western social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google. Yet, they communicate even better through their own social media and local search engine. Despite their unfamiliarity with English, their familiarity with technology is very evident, which also does not require English.” 

“I feel like Japan and China are exceptional cases”, he argued, as he took a sip on his coffee. 

I asked him in a calmer tone, “Can you guess how many countries, out of the 20 countries with the highest GDP per capita income, use their native language instead of a foreign language for official websites, law related cases, or higher education?” 

“Maybe about half of them?” he answered.

“All of them!” I shouted.

He didn’t say anything.

“None of these countries make the use of a foreign language for their higher education or official deeds. Whereas, almost all of the countries below the poverty line adapt English or other colonial languages as a way of further development. None of the countries have been able to successfully advance themselves economically. It is the same in our country where you will need an intermediate level of English knowledge to perform any task in hand. The court demands the English language, you will need a good command in the English language to advance through the universities in your own country, and you will need good English to land yourself a well-paying job. You are unable to contribute to your own economy if you do not know a foreign language. Doesn’t this sound absurd to you?” I asked.

He was still silent, but kept listening.

“It is all a system set up by the country, because in its view, getting the citizens to master the English language is a steady step towards development. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The citizens would perform better and contribute well to the economy if they are to let educate themselves and do all the jobs in their own native language. This conditioning has gotten very well to the minds of the normal citizen, because you can see how our society has put the English language up as a “status”. Those who are fluent in English are the elite and those who have a hard time speaking English are the ones who get left behind. Proper English is demanded in all formal events and people and peers are often judged based on their skill of the English language. We are a country where barely half the population has proper command in the English language. Our people barely have enough facilities for basic education. In such a country, English being a compulsion is an absurd reality. Why wouldn’t a country want to let its own people contribute to the economy, and rather lock themselves away from higher education? Just for the sake of a language. This question is beyond me.”  I kept on going.

He looked at me as if he wanted to interrupt, but decided not to. 

“The idea that the English language is needed for development is nothing but a myth, perpetuated by the western-loving sycophants in our country and alike. There is zero evidence to back this up, and no country would attribute their success to the mastery of the English language.” I still kept on going. “Large countries develop through increasing production and through the investment in their domestic economy’s capital. They use the money to invest and produce further more. I don’t think it really matters what language they use to do this”

“We shall agree to disagree”, he finally opened his heavy lips, as we parted ways.

Pradyot Raj Pandey (BoSS I yr)