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We were told “English isn’t optional!”

By on Mar 9, 2010 | 7 comments

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Every time I see parents talking to their kids in English (to appear mod and get social status leverage), I think something’s wrong. Of course, I’m not opposing English and I dare not do it. I remember being told that English is what you need to survive in the modern world and it’s the ‘English’ that opens the doors of world knowledge.

I firmly believed in that until now. I now think that we are conditioned to think that English is ‘the language’ to move forward in life because we are never taught to think on our own, take our own decisions, use our own brain etc.

Take example of Germany, France, Japan, China etc. These countries have made progress speaking their own language, inventing their own technology and then selling it to the world. Many Germans still can’t speak English and they are no way behind the world; in fact they are far ahead of many other countries. Same applies to the Japanese and the French.

The difference? They innovate and they don’t need English to do that. On the contrary, our (Indian) concept of Innovation is very well defined: Go to a foreign country and learn the latest technology there and then copy it in India. That’s why we are ecstatic about getting 3G while the rest of the world is moving on to 4G.

Innovation comes from finding problems and then coming up with solutions. It isn’t really hard. But the brain programming & conditioning that we grow up with prevents us from doing that.

The Big K-


  1. Amruta

    March 10, 2010

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    Biggie, I admire the way you analyse any thought, problem and the way you put them in easy words.

  2. Amruta

    March 10, 2010

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    Actually I never thought about this- why can’t we have science & technology education in our own language?

  3. durga

    March 10, 2010

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    because we have to work in an MNC, english is mandatory . if we had to work in our own labs .mother tongue is more than enough . the other side, see we are talking in engligh and post too is in english.. why not in your mother tongue because all masses wont understand.
    this gets confusing the more i think..

  4. Mayur

    March 11, 2010

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    I think it is good to have English as a language of communication. I dont see any thing wrong in it. Vernacular languages can not be promoted at the cost of English. Germany, Japan, France and China have just one language as their mother tongue. It is German, French, Japanese and Chinese. As against this, we have at least 20 other languages spoken widely in different parts of the world. By that equation, India should have been divided in 20 different countries on the basis of language. Had Maharashtra been a country, I would have promoted Marathi at any cost. But it is not possible to do in diverse country in India.

    By the way I disagree that it as the love for their mother tongue which led Germans or Japanese to innovate. It is basically their discipline and the love of their motherland. Germans dont migrate to US for better future. They go there to win business.

    The sick attitude of Indians is letting them down, not their love for language. We believe in getting inspired all the time (read copying). If we put our brains in doing something original, we are through.

  5. The Big K

    March 11, 2010

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    I did not say that its the love the language that has led to innovation and progress. This post is not at all on the lines of ‘Raj Thakrey’ topic.

    Of course, India being a host to 200+ languages isn’t the reason we need to stick to English. If Japanese can do it with Japanese and Germans with German, Indians can do it with Hindi, Marathi, Telugu or any language.

    I am not saying English should not be a language of communication. I am not opposing it. I am only saying that it isn’t necessary to make progress. I’d not like to bring in the issue of languages here.

    The post above is about innovation.

  6. karan

    March 11, 2010

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    France does not have just French language. They have many regional languages Alsatian,Basque,Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Flemish, Franco-Provençal, Lorraine Franconian, Occitan ( this is big number looking at the size of France) corresponding to different regions touching different countries. I came to know this bcoz I have people from almost every corner of France in my office. At some point in history they were compelled to accept french as national language keeping other languages at back foot. That is how french became their national language. Paris is just 2 hrs distance from London, but hardly anybody CAN speak English and that doesn’t matter them. For them its not the right or correct file, its good file!
    Regarding China, present Chinese language is language that was spoken in Beijing region. Even their, people were made to accept this language as national language. I can’t believe that India is the only country with so much diversity in languages and China (almost double or more of India touching India, Pakistan, Afganistan on one side, Russia, Mangolia on other and S.Korea on third) has only one language or a huge country like Russia spanning two continents has only Russian as the only official language.
    Just want to add one more point. I attended one Ph.D viva recently here in Paris. It was all in French. The kind of comfort, fluency and easyness she had in her talk, I haven’t come across a single Indian delivering talk in English. So, I tried the same here giving a twist under the name of fun in my talk for a moment. I found me delivering science in marathi comfortably. It makes a difference in understanding and working.

  7. Mayur

    March 12, 2010

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    Of course I agree English should not be a compulsory language for growth. But it was made compulsory by some people in the past. And now the history can not be undone.

    If the post is about innovation, let us talk about it. Why are we discussing language? Science needs no language. Technology can not be handicapped by choice of language at all. Let us rather talk about changing the attitude.

    Otherwise the argument will start looking like another ‘Raj Thackeray’ style rant.


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