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Bollywood Hindi will do, please

india Updated: Oct 07, 2006 19:30 IST
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With all due respect -- and I say this as a Tamil-speaking Indian expat with no fondness for Hindi -- Barkha Dutt's article, fawning as it does over English, is incredibly foolish.

It's yet another symptom of the "India disease" where our people, conditioned from over a century of British imperialism to hate ourselves and our culture, still fall into the time-honoured fantasy of believing that all would somehow be well for us if we'd just get rid of our irritating indigenous languages and adopt English.

What I find most irritating is how Dutt, like so many other deluded desis, equates English with power, economic strength and membership in a social elite -- while the lack of English is associated with poverty, boorishness, failure and incompetence. The same foolish fallacy dressed up in new robes.

If English is so associated with success and panache, then why are so many English-speaking countries such as Nigeria, Jamaica, Belize, Guyana and Zimbabwe among the poorest spots on earth? On the converse, why are so many non-Anglophone countries such as Japan, Germany, France, Korea, Taiwan and China so wealthy and successful?

The answer is that English has virtually nothing to do with our own economic progress in India -- it's a distracter from the real sources of economic advance such as improved infrastructure and education, which are best advanced by conducting businesses in the local languages.

English gets us a little extra outsourcing business with the US, but in the midst of our English fetish, we fail to provide adequate native language education for the vast, vast majority of our people.

We can't improve our crumbling infrastructure, boost the local economies, let alone improve public health via the English infatuation -- how can we hope to combat the HIV scourge in India if our doctors are educated in English, yet they can't communicate essential technical information with their patients?

Every single study has shown that children learn best in their native language and in the predominant local language of the region. In fact, every single successful country today has education, government work and administration conducted in the local tongue, or in a common indigenous language native to the region.

There has never been an exception to this, and the reason is obvious -- only the use of local languages enables a people to link modern technology, business and social structures with its own history, which is one of the immutable requirements for any society to advance.

That's why countries like Korea and Taiwan are already so advanced and becoming stronger every month despite facing similar difficulties as India in 1948, while we in India ourselves continue to languish far behind.

Even outsourcing is a poor excuse to glorify English so much -- the biggest growth in off-shoring business in the past two years has come from countries like Germany and France, where you'd better know German or French to get the contracts!

For India to have any chance of improving, we have to permanently forsake the English fetish, this fantasy that promoting English would somehow assist us even slightly in our quest to become a modern nation.

English does not even function well as a common link language -- as a Tamil-speaker I would prefer that we select two Indian languages, Hindi and one of the southern Dravidian tongues, to function as tandem link languages.

Besides, today's "Bollywood Hindi" used on the streets and in the markets, instead of the pure Hindi that we Tamils felt was forced upon us, is full of words from Tamil, Bengali and other Indian tongues, and is thus far easier for us in the South to accept.