Daily O

13 ways of looking at English: This language gets work done in India

The title of the article alludes to the famous poem ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ by the American poet Wallace Stevens with 13 arguments, like the 13 stanzas of the poem.


The debate whether we should love or hate English has now been concluded heavily in favour of the lovers. The main ideas of the anti-English argument, keeping mother tongues alive, preserving traditions, cultural protectionism, fighting the linguistic class system, etc have been trumped by one simple idea: Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral. First comes food, then come ideals. In the knowledge economy, English is a breadwinning skill. Culture can barely put up a fight against economic whirlwinds, let alone resist them. In other words, turning against English is costly.

India’s first minister of education Maulana Azad wrote: “One thing is quite clear and definite, and I have no doubt that any Indian will disagree with me. The position English occupies […] in our educational and official life cannot be sustained in future.” He couldn't foresee that in future Indians would, in fact, quite disagree with him. In reality, has English displaced our languages any more than computers have taken away our jobs? Even if it has,

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