Saturday, September 3, 2011

English – the Other Language in India

India is one of the top five English speaking countries in the world. The official language of the country is Hindi. They don’t have a national language owing to the fact that India is comprised of many states with different cultures that use languages other than Hindi.

For example, in Punjab there’s Punjabi and in Andhra Pradesh there’s Telugu. Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri, Tamil, Kannada are some of the other regional languages spoken in India.

English is considered an additional language used for official work. This is according to India’s Constitution. There was once a move to put an end to the usage of English. But this move was met with much protestation from non-Hindi speaking states. After all, it seems that English was the common denominator as far as language is concerned.

After years of being under British rule, it should be no surprise to find English as a popular medium of communication in some sectors of Indian society. From the middle class all the way to the upper class, English is a well-understood and widely spoken language. This is not to say that the lower class members of society do not know how to speak English at all. On the contrary, they may not be fluent in the language but many do understand bits and pieces of English enough to get the gist of a story, movie or a song, perhaps.

In television and the movies, English continues to influence viewers. MTV India alone is not a purely Hindi channel. It is rather a combination of both. Hollywood films, TV shows, and music are fueling the rise of Hinglish or Hindi/English. Even the local Bollywood is churning out English and Hinglish films. TataSky, India’s cable company offers a service called Active English that provides English conversational lessons to housewives. The British Council provides content for this service.

English newspapers abound in India. Serious journalism began with the English press. English news channels like BBC and CNN are available on cable. A number of journalism courses are offered in English.

One of the reasons why India was once called the call center capital of the world (some reports say the Philippines now owns this title) is because of the number of English speakers in India. English is the language of education. In universities throughout India, English is the number mode of instruction. For Indian students to become successful in forging a career in business, government, science, technology and other areas, they must be fluent in English.

To become computer savvy, understanding English is a must. Information technology savvy Indians are those who have a good command of English. Many computer users make use of the English edition Microsoft Windows even if Microsoft has provided Indian languages support.

English seems to be the universal language of India rather than Hindi. In fact, English is big money in India. Multinational companies hire fluent English speakers. In a country where poverty is still a major issue, learning English is a must if one wants to better his and his family’s quality of life. Hopefully, the younger generation of Indians will also be interested to master their own language, whether it is Hindi or another regional Indian language, so they can fully appreciate their true Indian heritage and culture.

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