Interview with Prof. A K Ghosh, author of English, Quo Vadis
on Feb 08, 2022
A widely published writer, Professor AK Ghosh, has been writing on topics related to education, language and literature in leading national dailies and journals for more than 25 years. More importantly, he is concerned with the plight of English teaching in India and has explored innovative methods for proper teaching of English language at the school level and the creative part of it at the tertiary level in his different write-ups. Also, he has authored a large number of topics of general interest, research papers and short stories. His recently published non-fiction Auntie English has received widespread acclamation.
1- Share some tips and recommendations on how to use English as a language of opportunity?
English is already the language of opportunity. This language didn't remain limited to Britain only. When the Mayflower sailed with all those English people who were later known as Americans, it went along ,too, and flourished there. When the convicts were shipped to Australia, it went along with their aboriginal language and grew. And when the settlers and explorers went to Canada and made homes there in the heart of the French domain, it reigned too. To ensure that work went on smoothly, English was taught to the natives and in the process this language became a part of their politics. Once confined to a remote era, English in two centuries struck such deep roots in other lands. One can see it as an interesting linguistic phenomenon on the Indian scene that a larger number of Indians speak and write the language than under British rule. The same was the case with many other countries as well ,and today it is native language for more than 30 countries and is the second language in about 75 countries. Now that English is emerging as a single world language, the emergence of an English- based global lingua- franca is also imminent.
2- How in today’s generation, a person is judged on his English speaking skills?
We all know, English as a language may not be native to our country but there are certainly more speakers of English here than in Britain. Knowledge of English in India symbolizes better education and greater sophistication. It is also true that for the vast majority of population, there exists an emotional bond with the mother language which helps to shape its vision of the world, its culture in the broadest sense of the term, even though there are areas of cultural contiguity and interference because of bilingualism and biculturalism of a significant proportion of urban population. A country like ours, where many languages, some of them mutually antagonistic, are spoken, needs an elite that can manipulate the techniques of the government and administration and constitute an effective interface with the world. Merely cosmetic show off will hardly do.
3- A person’s socioeconomic status in Indian society is almost in line with his or her fluency in English language. Why?
I consider this assumption quite derogatory. This would insult our thousands of entrepreneurs lacking fluency in English, who are intelligent, hard- working and have the potential to fight for their goals. They are creators, and we need to be proud of them. Remember, English was introduced to create a class which, according to Macaulay, would act as interpreters between Englishmen and the millions they governed. We cannot overlook that many of them became creators and not merely interpreters, who with their revolutionary thought spelled the doom of English rule.
4- The world is ever evolving- so does the language. What are your thoughts on the changing of English as a standard language?
The English language continues to bask in global sunshine. It is no longer used in the same manner as in the country of its origin. The extent of variation in its usage, its structure and its pronunciation is bewildering. In fact, Standard English has been going through a period of great change. It is feared that the divergent processes would ultimately break up English into many separate languages .So we have American English, Indian English, Australian English, Kiwis English, Caribbean English, and should we say English English! The distortions of English language are likely to make Standard English not recognizable in near future. However, the hope lies in the continuing unity of English and its prospects as a major medium of global communication.
5- “As English is not about containing knowledge and it's just a language” one shouldn’t be forced to have this skill. What do you say?
Each linguistic community evolves a particular language for expressing its feelings, emotions and ideas. In India, as per the 1966 recommendations, the mother tongue was generally followed in all stages of education all over the country with the exception of a few states. However, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, English has been accepted as the official language along with other languages. English should be taught but not at the cost of other languages . We remember, for nearly a decade between 1975 and 1985,Macmillan India ran a Hindi publishing unit for tertiary level textbooks . Most of the books published were translations of standard English texts, including Harold Laski's Grammar of Politics and sections of RC Majumdar's Advanced History of India. The program came to an end because the books didn't sell.