Before going deep into the matter, let’s understand what a medium is?
A medium is a vehicle that allows us to transport something from point A to B. That “something” can be anything — a pen, a computer, or a language.
A pen is a tangible thing. You can touch, see, and feel it. But what you write with it — poems, stories, songs, film scripts — is intangible. And what you write makes the real impact.
You can use a 3 rupees ball pen to write a letter to the Prime minister requesting him to provide immediate relief to the farmers in your area, or you can use a 100 rupees gel pen to fling insults on the constitution. What matters is what you are writing and not the instrument — in this case, the pen — that you are using to write. What matters is the not the word, but the feeling, the emotion that those words carry.
Communication mediums are in constant flux. They keep on changing with the societies’ needs. Back in the stone age, man used fire and smoke to communicate with his tribe’s members. Over time we developed languages and learned how to use voice to transmit knowledge. Further, when the expansion of human civilization began on a large scale, we developed writing skills. For the first time, alphabets were created. Writing helped spread God’s word far and wide and gave rise to different religions. If writing hadn’t existed, there would have been no constitution, and hence, no countries. Companies wouldn’t have existed, and a significant share of the world’s population would be living under poverty.
The above findings establish the importance of the written and spoken word.
Now, it wouldn’t be challenging to find a logical answer to the topic of this debate. It’s a historical fact that English-speaking empires ruled more than half of the planet in the 18th and 19th centuries. Almost everything — from forming laws and conducting business to writing books and issuing orders — was done in English. We should also keep in mind that the most outstanding scientists, mathematicians, writers, business people, inventors, dramatists, singers, dancers, and athletes were English speaking people in this period.
And this trend continues. The inventions in modern technology — from the Internet and automobiles to smartphones and computers — happened in English speaking countries. We merely purchase their products. They are job producers, and we are job seekers.
Therefore the logical conclusion is that students must be taught in English because if they understand English and know how to read, speak, and write, they wouldn’t be sitting idle after completing their graduation. An engineer won’t be working on the paddy fields to feed his family. But some people rightly raise the point that numerous Non-English speaking nations are developing at a fast pace. They often give China’s example, but they forget to tell that China is the largest manufacturer in the world. It produces nearly a third of the world’s goods.
My understanding is that only a rich country can afford to propagate its mother tongue. Language directly relates to the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and the house you reside in. Unfortunately, if you only know Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, or Bengali, you won’t have deep pockets. You can still compete for government jobs that don’t distinguish people based on language, but you will significantly lower your chance of getting a high-paying job in a private company. There are no ifs and butts. English is a must.
There is no problem with learning your mother tongue. But you must know English well if you don’t want to fall back in the race. Countries — India or otherwise can think of propagating home-grown languages only when they become self-sufficient.
India has a golden opportunity in its hands. It can invest in infrastructure, talent, entrepreneurship, and education, and lead the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0. The good news is that India is already performing far better than other countries. A quick glance will tell you why.
ISRO has become a leading name in space technology. It has become synonymous with NASA and is breaking the boundaries in space exploration. Jio has significantly lowered the data prices that have allowed millions of Indians to benefit from the Internet. Startups are rising and are creating millions of jobs across the country. Indian scientists and technologists are breaking barriers in automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. If you look at the business landscape, Indians are successfully leading the most prominent companies globally.
India is becoming a pioneer in both — technology and business. The time is not far when new technology and management principles will be created in Indian languages. Americans coding in Hindi and Britishers’ writing poems in Tamil will not baffle you. It will become the norm.
Indian languages, or any language, can prosper if it serves the needs of the people. Let me say it once again: If India wants its languages to gain global acceptance, it will have to lead IR 4.0. Until then, it is just a dream.