17 May, 2021

Stranger At Home

English bespeaks progress. India’s youth is much the worse without it.

Illustration by Sandeep Adhwaryu
Stranger At Home

Our obsession with the English language has served us brilliantly. It has kept us united as a nation; it has contributed significantly to the social mobility of Indians; it has been a major factor in our recent success in the global economy. One of the cheerful things happening in India is the quiet democratising of English. Dalits are today its biggest advocates because English allows them to work in call centres and other modern jobs, where there are fewer caste barriers. A recent survey in Mumbai shows Dalit women who knew English rose economically by marrying outside their caste—31 per cent of Dalit women who knew English had inter-caste marriages and rose economically, but the average figure for this category of mobility in the community was just 9 per cent. Dalits identify our regional languages with caste oppression. Hence, Dalits across the country hailed Mayawati’s decision to introduce English from the first grade in UP. (That there aren’t English teachers is another issue!)

The linguist, Peggy Mohan, likens...

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