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June 13, 2004
Indian English and finishing in the West

More reportage on the state of the English language and of English language teaching in India.

M Thambidurai, Former Education Minister, Tamil Nadu, said: "Promoting one particular language is not necessary. When one says that English is not our language then even Hindi is not our language. Our mother tongue is better for us."

But learning English has been seen as a necessity largely due to the high demand for English-speakers, thanks to the boom in call centres.

So it is no wonder why the underprivileged see English as a stepping stone to a better future.

But then the article morphs into being about "finishing", for Indian girls who want to be Western Wives.

Many Indian girls dream of foreign-based husbands, so that they can live a better life abroad.

But for that to happen, they must improve their English skills.

Only then would they strike the right balance between playing traditional daughters-in-law and conducting themselves adequately in Western societies.

This has given rise to several finishing schools.

They are preparing for entry exams, personality development programmes, language and hobby courses anything to make them better wives when they begin their married lives in the US, Canada or Europe.

I wish all concerned well.

People should be writing Dickens-type novels about this stuff , and producing elaborate TV soap operas set in five different countries. No doubt they are.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:31 PM
Category: IndiaLanguages
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Comments

'M Thambidurai, Former Education Minister, Tamil Nadu, said: "Promoting one particular language is not necessary. When one says that English is not our language then even Hindi is not our language. Our mother tongue is better for us."'

Interesting, and I've noticed this before-- some of the most anti-English sentiment in India is coming from the Dravidian (Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu) regions in the south rather than in the north. In fact IIRC several governments recently dropped English-medium schools and replaced them with local language medium. It was nationwide, but main impetus was from the south.

"But learning English has been seen as a necessity largely due to the high demand for English-speakers, thanks to the boom in call centres."

Vastly exaggerated-- the call centre economy is barely a drop in the bucket for India, and in any case as the returns come in, many US companies especially are souring on the foreign call centres because they're not remotely as cost-effective as people once believed. (Plus all the privacy issues are causing a big political brouhaha that's putting tremendous pressure on companies not to use them.) If anything, the vast increase in non-English (Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, and others) language newspapers and media is providing an enormous incentive for better mastery and literacy of the local languages. People in India are often multilingual and it's common to encounter speakers of English, French, even German in many places, but for official purposes Hindi, Tamil, and other tongues are gaining at the expense of English in pretty much every state.

Comment by: Wes on October 3, 2004 02:21 AM
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