Opinions about the role and future of the English language in India have varied with the years. Before the attainment of independence both English and Englishmen were condemned as foreign and hence hostile to the national interests. Mahatma Gandhi, though admittedly a good, effective writer in English, experienced the view that English education has emasculated us, constrained our intellect, and the manner of imparting this education has rendered as effeminate. He felt that English education put a severe strain upon Indian students' nervous energy and has made many evils of foreign rule; the blighting importation of a foreign medium of instruction upon the youth of the country will be counted by history as one of the greatest.
Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, whose writings in English and Bengali won him international fame, however, paid a deserving tribute to the contribution that English literature made. It nourished our minds, he said, that even now conveys its deep resonance to the recesses of our heart. The days and nights of educated people of those times were eloquent with the stately declamations of Burke, and Macaulay's long rolling sentences. Jawaharlal Nehru, himself a master of the English language, while admitting that we cannot educate millions of people, in a foreign language, contended that English would inevitably remain an important language for us because of our past associations and because of its present importance in the world.
English cannot become a common all India medium of communication but it is, and will continue to be the principal medium for us to communicate to be, the principal education widened the Indian outlook and horizon. It developed an admiration for the unique English literature and institutions. It is to English education that the country owes a debt for the emergence of a new class of liberal minded people in the professions and the services.
English is among the world's greatest and richest languages. It is estimated that next only to Chinese, which is spoken by nearly 800 million people, English is the most popular language books in the world are published in English. For the people of India English is perhaps the easiest foreign language to learn. There are other important languages too, but because of the educational set-up already established in India by the British. English has some foundations which would be difficult to establish for any other language.
The English language instead of being gradually discarded and replaced by Hindi has become more popular. This is evident from the number of students opting for the English medium for school, college and university instruction. Families belonging to the middle and the affluent classes take pride in sending their children to schools where the medium of instruction is English. They believe, and with considerable justification, that the careers of their wards, in government and also in private offices, can be built only on the basis of education in the English medium.
English at present is the language of the elite, who form a small section of the people, and it will continue to be so. The efforts to popularize the use of Hindi as a national language for official work have succeeded only partially. As a result, work in central government offices is done in English, which continues to be the government officers is done in English, which continues to be the center and the states and among the states themselves. Moreover, there is widespread recognition of the fact that scientific and technical knowledge can be acquired only through books and journals published in English. Technical books translated into Hindi and other Indian languages have not proved popular for various reasons.
English has several advantages precision of expression, worldwide popularity and a rich literature. These ensure for it a bright future despite the loud protests by language fanatics and the anti-English pleadings in the name of patriotism. While English cannot become India's main language, its use as a second language is beneficial to the country.
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