TODAY -

Of Vernacular and my Enlightenment with English

Kamal Baruah *



We grasped the sounds of native rhyme from "Kuhipath" the first book of class (Ka) One. Those were fun in memorising multiplying-tables under sun-soaked summer. Come rain, sun or snow we squeeze into one hall that all five primary classes continued to study. Child's learning and development throughout their journey has actually begun from today's so-called Nursery/Kindergarten-Stage days itself, ours had Ka-Kha days at preschool learning under open sky, where a kid involves in all transitions from home to another room at toy-strewn nursery. It opens the doors to a world of reading.

Sociologists argue that nursery rhymes set to music aid in a child's development. Rhymes are words for life; one just couldn't forget that dwells in one's heart. Every person is capable of astounding creativity. Israelis believe tapping into a child's inner world though Piano and Violin so as to bring out their mathematics skills and creativity.

We nurtured in Buniyadi Pathyakram (primary education introduced by the Father of our nation Gandhiji) i.e. vernacular and reached traditional rhyme Jack and Jill (one of the earliest origin in Britain, 1765) at class V only.

At high school, there was not just a textbook in rhyming verse, we were frantic with worry at English grammar and defaulters were forced to stand up over benches. The panic-stricken students often bunked out. The teachings were strict, firm but no friendly. Thus there was no joy in learning and ironically we could not learn either. At home, the scene had further deteriorated sharply as father asked grammar during dinner. Quite honestly, I passed such a bad time with English at school.

The British colonisation has led it possible to make English as world's common language, the greatest gift to the world. British contaminated the Indian Education System by injecting western education in India. Our forefathers came across at their education and that could be the reason behind their strong grammatical knowledge. Soon after independence, vernacular language is being taught at primary level.

The recommendation for three language policy by UGC in 194849 did not materialize as Tamil Nadu opposed to Hindi as it itself a minority language. It had no superiority over Kannada, Telegu, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi, Malayalam, Urdu and Gujrati. It had finally adopted by the Parliament in 1968. The promotion of Urdu was launched during 1972. In 1990 Ali Sardar Jafri committee modified the three-language formula Hindi (with Sanskrit), Urdu/MIL and English/MIL in Hindi speaking States and regional language, Hindi/Urdu/MIL and English/MIL for non-Hindi speaking States.

I always had a desire with English since childhood. There was a big deal about hearing spoons and forks at mealtime by British. We hadn't gotten the knack of those cultural identities. May be we were living on dark ages prior to TV that transformed knowledge later. My understanding on English never got fulfilled at school and all my efforts went in vain.

After 10+2, Indian Air Force had given us the opportunity to involve with English and formal eating manners and etiquette. A popular saying in Britain is "Manners maketh man". The fork is held in the left hand, the knife in the right to cut food and help carry food to the fork. The saga of IAF in blue truly started from its inception as the Royal IAF.

Our training at the Silicon Valley Bangalore also enlightened us to learn better. Further my first posting at the national capital; the British Library had rejuvenated to go in deep learning through academic, cultural and professional exchanges.

The English language has turned into a widely accepted means of international communication and has become the Lingua Franca (ELF English as a lingua franca) in 21st century. People are becoming more and more serious about language learning in their highly networked professional world.

Today India's North East is not far behind. It is one of the most linguistically diverse states in India. English as a language of convenience is connected hundred languages of north eastern people. Its ubiquitous influence is felt by our young generation and NE culture is moving something of a renaissance. In comparison to area, it seems pretty good to have more than 25 English Newspapers circulations daily.

The phenomenon of linguistic globalization has brought enormous changes that influence every aspect of our lives. The growth of English and the emergence of the internet have enabled instantaneous global communication nowadays.

Interestingly English is a vernacular in United Kingdom but it is used as a lingua franca in Asian countries (Philippines and India). Similarly Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and French serve alike purpose in their countries. English is a Second Language (ESL) in European countries.

A Spaniard, a Frenchmen, and a German might carry on a conversation in English only. English is spoken by one in every four people worldwide (1.75 billion). It is almost 80 percent of non native English speakers in the world. It is the third most native language after Chinese and Spanish.

British Council creates international opportunities for the people worldwide in educational opportunities and cultural relations. English is becoming a core criterion in determining employability worldwide. It makes a significant contribution to sustainable global development in trade and business. IELTS (International English Language Testing System), the world most popular English test for higher education and global migration, is a must now to apply for a visa to stay in the UK.

My granny wondered how her American-born grandchildren speak fluent English, even though child's mother does not. Now the things have changed. I saw our teenage daughter 'Pakhi' could easily sing along in accompaniment with the tune of popular English album. Even our nephew 'Dhunu' could speak Hingligh at LKG itself. Their intelligence astounded me. Its only saving grace is the digital internet. All these ingredients helped us to adopt English as a common language across India. Is that pretty alarming to vernacular language and culture?

Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English. Since Hindi failed to become pan India language, English slowly capitalise it. Parents lose faith to vernacular schools even in the remotest area of NE states. More number of English medium private institutions is coming up across India to cater the demand in the market.

Now, in the age of the Internet and supremacy of English, the future of other languages looks bleak to students. Is the future of mother language at stake? And English have become de jure King of Global Lingua Franca.

English is not just related to England for its people and language anymore that widely used in many varieties throughout the world. My learning to English on those days at school was distraught with anxiety. But today I realised those days were not dark indeed it illuminates me from the age of reason to this digital world.

And English remain to me as one of my favourite. It's truly enlightened culminating from vernacular days to help me easy swiping across the touch screen at my smartphone these days.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a resident of Guwahati and can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 20 2019.



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