“Why English?”

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Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

দেবপ্রসাদ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়

 Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

March 10, 1998

(M)other Tongue Syndrome: For and Against the Learning Abstract: 

At the moment of presenting this paper in 1998 at Indian Statistical Institute, there was a big controversy on the introduction of English in the Bangla Medium primary schools and a one man committee headed by Prof. Pabitra Sarkar was set up by the West Bengal Government. There were three basic questions related to English Language Education in the context of primary education in West Bengal, India. These three questions are: (a)Why should we learn English(why should we not learn any other foreign language?) (b)When should we learn English? (c) How should we learn English? This paper deals only with the question (a).The author describes Indian plurilingual scenario and politics of language choice(s) and hegemonic role of English in India. It is part of the legacy of the Nehruvian elitist India-project, which envisaged science, technology and total centralization in the name of modernization, that the westernized middle class begun to patronize English to combat traditional elite. On the other hand, the traditional elite supported and is also supporting a form of highly Sanskritized Hindi for the sake of larger communication and as a part of Anti-Urdu and Anti-Muslim stance and to sustain thier bharata-project. This plea was supported by Hindu revivalist like Jansangh as well as the whole Sangh parivar. Gandhi and Socialist like Lohia, Rahul Sankrityayan encouraged indegenous Hindusthani and contradicted English and Sanskritized Hindi as these elitist languages debar mass from the participation in the decision-making body. Thus, there are three positions regarding language-choices for the newly developed nation-state. Let us rephrase this position by deploying technical vocabulary of Linguistics. Linguistics, though theoretically uninterested in the relative strength of one language over another from the strict core-linguistic point of view as it believes in the potential equality of all the languages, also noticed the hiearchical position of High (H) over Low (L) code in the hierarchical society. According to the language choice one H or L code is selected to meet certain purpose of the society. Nehru’s choice was obviously H/ Foreign and Hindutvavadis’ choice was and also is H/ archaic. On the other hand, Gandhi-Lohia’s choice was L/ Contemporary or indigenous language. The problem arises out of this state of affairs, when the pro-L/indigenous group does not stick to their linguistic Human Right and opt for H/Foreign or H/archaic to be in the process of upward mobilization or Sanskritization or Formal Elaboration of Social Hierarchy (FESH). That is, as some Indian linguists termed it, “sunflower syndrome”: we are like sunflowers, instead of looking at each other, we are looking at the supposed sun or a language of prestige and technical-power to accelerate our status. It is just like the suicidal process of desiring to be a member of Neuclear club. A peculiar dialectic of collaboration and non-collaboration from the part of the Dalits (downtrodden), arose when in 1989, Mulayum Singh Yadav a noted Dalit leader, begun “aNreji HOTaw” (banish English) movement, and in 1991, Lallo Prasad Yadav, another noted Dalit ledear, propagated “aNreji le aW”(introduce English) Movement. This desire of a Dalit leader triggers FESH.


Number of Pages in PDF File: 5

Keywords: Formal Elaboration of Social hierarchy, Sun Flower Syndrome


About Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

Debaprasad Bandyopdhyay (b. 1965), through his 25 years journey in the realm of institutionalized academics did 27 different types of works, which are someway different from the earlier paradigms or, one might say that those works are not only mere reproductions of his inherited institutionalized cultural capital or a mimicry of a colonially imposed model that leads to intellectual anorexia or rather a type falsification of earlier paradigms. However, that might be not only a lofty claim but it also hid the fact that all our information and knowledge are socially accumulated knowledge that was, it is matter of regret, posed as private property through the sign © and the wisdom is rarely available. Bandyopadhyay’s works and projects are the products of his social milieu. Bandyopadhyay is a local sub-altern public sphere academician, who avoids the technical intelligentsia (followers of Sahib’s models and they are not committed to the persons who are accommodating surplus work-time to them by performing surplus labour) or inorganic intellectuals and thus fails to be a part of academic tribe and its subsequent socialization process. Of course, that socialization process does not lead to legendary Socratic dialogue. He is also a political activist though he has not affiliated to any political parties as he was always talking about the corporatization of political parties within the money-sign-based democratic system. He is a regular participant in TV and radio talk-shows and documentary films, street-corners’ talks and International seminars on socio-political, psychological, linguistic, environmental and economic issues. He also writes editorial columns in newspapers. He is also a part of parallel academics as it is found in West Bengal’s Little Magazine Movement, though that was not counted as the part his academic pursuit by his parent institute. His parent institute justifiably does not believe in the domain of parallel academics as this unorganized sector does not directly contribute in the transactions of formal/organized print capitalist eco-enemy paper-publication. Though the dissemination of knowledge is also observed in this space of these parallel academics as all these writings in public sphere simultaneously influence the classroom-discourse and some of them are translated into English, French and Italian. Not only that, Bandyopadhyay also sought engagement with the people, who, by supplying their surplus labour, are sustaining his livelihood. Bandyopadhyay, a linguist by training and a Ph.D.-holder (1996), a junior lecturer (1999-2011) in an autonomous central government institute in India, tries his best for those from he has received and is receiving the manifestation of surplus labour by executing some self-funded projects on economic issues in West Bengal, India. Recently he has got a consolation promotion to the post of Assistant Professor. He has done following 27 research works: 1. Crippled Creativity: An inquiry into language, psyche, society: 2. VALENCY OF BANGLA VERB AND PROBLEM OF COMPOUND VERBS: 3. Archaeology of Bangla Grammar : 4. CAN COMPUTER SPEAK? 5. FUZZY LOGICAL EXPRESSION IN BANGLA : 6. FOLKLORE AND FOLK-LANGUAGE: MYTH OR REALITY? 7. HISTORICISM IN THE DISCOURSE OF BANGLA LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 8. ABHABA, ECP, DELETION AND TRACE 9. SVATVA OR MY-NESS AND ECONOMIC ENTITLEMEMT 10. TRANSLATION STUDIES 11. MASCULINITY STUDIES 12. YAYATI & BABAR COMPLEX 13. SOCIO-ECONOMIC SURVEYS IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL 14. CONCEPT OF BODY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY AND ARCHITECTURE 15. THE CONCEPT OF ERROR (KHYATI) IN MAD-(WO)MEN’S LANGUAGE 16. THE CONCEPT OF PERCEPTUAL TIME AND GRAMMATICAL TIME IN BANGLA 17. BANGLA CALLIGRAPHY, LANGUAGE ART AND LINGUISTIC PEDAGOGY 18. WO(L)D SPACES: NON-EXISTENCE OF WORDS 19. ANEKANTA METHODS 20. SILENCEME: SILENT OTHER IN LINGUISTICS 21. IMAGINED BOUDARIES AND PRE-COLONIAL INDIAN IMAGI-NATION 22. MAKING OF THE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 23. SEGMENTING THE SUPRASEGMENTALS : MUSICKING IN SPEAKING 24. INTERPRETING GENETIC STRUCTURE BY DEPLOYING LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE 25. GLOTTOPOLITICS OF LINGUISTIC SUBALTERNITY OR AN AGENDA FOR PLANNING FROM BELOW 26. SEMIOTICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY 27. SOCIOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY ACADEMICS
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