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English VS Assamese

English is the global medium of communication today. No one can deny the fact that the English language today rules the world. A study says that 450 million people today speak the language world wide (the Hindi language is spoken by 182 million people). No wonder that the English language has come to be regarded as the language of opportunity, the ladder for development and progress. If we try to analyse, we will find two main reasons for that. English serves the two most important purposes – i) instruction and ii) communication.

Instruction refers to all the directions levelled on products like from the bottle of a medicine to the mannual of a car and all those books available on all the subjects under the sky (except those of the language subjects). If we have to get the meaning of all those directions, we can’t help but must know English.

Communication refers to our interaction with others by either means – written or verbal. In today’s changing scenario into a cyber world, we can not afford to learn only our mother-tongue / state language and lock ourselves up inside a room. In order to communicate with the world, at every stage we are in great need of English.

Without the basic knowledge of English, one can’t achieve anything worthwhile today. Technically developed countries like Japan, Germany, China, France, Russia, etc. have been compelled today, after years of shunning the English language, to learn it afresh. We cannot go for higher studies in our mother tongues as there are no text books in vernacular for Engineering, Medicine, Law, Management etc.

The condition of English learning in the vernacular medium schools of our state of Assam however is virtually pathetic. Realising both this pathetic condition and the importance of learning the language, a good number of English teachers of all the districts of the govt. schools of Assam last year, gathered at English Language Teaching Institute, Assam located at Kahilipara, Guwahati and decided to observe September 1 as English Day in all the regional medium high and higher secondary schools of Assam. This is to create the right atmosphere for the learning of the language by the students of those schools, if nothing else, at least to acquire the communicative competence in the language. These concerned teachers had a few very strong points in their minds as they took this initiative – “Why should English language proficiency be the monopoly of the English medium students only?”, “Why should the window to the world not be opened to these students of vernacular medium schools for this lack which can be overcome with a little effort?” and such other questions.

So, there’s no denying the point that today English is the global lingua franca without which we can’t think of much progress and development. Hence, we can’t but must learn it.

Till this point, there’s definitely no problem and no controversy. But problem starts the moment we peep in the lives and thought level of most of the students of English medium schools.

Students of English medium schools can speak in English but necessarily can’t write correctly and satisfactorily. Their knowledge of grammar is poor. That is not all. There’s something much more dangerous than that. They have started neglecting and ignoring their mother tongues, the very loving language of their parents, of their community and of their state.

Today we have generation which can speak Assamese (or their respective mother tongues) but can’t read and write the language. The standard of the Assamese language is declining and its importance both in Assam and in the North East is decreasing. This is happening more because, instead of feeling guilty or ashamed of their inability to read or write the language, many of them are seen to feel proud of that. The parents in this respect must own the main responsibility. Because, instead of encouraging their children to learn the language and the subject in real earnest, many of the parents themselves are seen to discourage their children in doing so. Such questions are asked by Assamese parents – “What good will be done by learning Assamese?”Because of such attitude of parents and children, the young generation has developed the habit of reading English literature only.

That is the most dangerous harm we have started doing to Assamese and any other mother tongue. That is a threat to the future of the language. If there live no takers of the Assamese or any particular language, how can we hope for its survival? A day will definitely come and rather soon when Assamese will be just like the Sanskrit language – it exists but no one uses it, either its spoken or its written form.

Not just that. The literature in any language also puts forth its culture and tradition. That means, the lack of acquaintance of Assamese literature has resulted in the meager knowledge of Assamese culture and traditions among the young generation.

All these are again the result of reasons like lack of the minimum level of patriotism and the presence of slave-attitude in us. The problem is not so much in learning the English language properly as in imitating the English ways and styles. Especially the middle class and the lower middle class people of our society have developed a very strange craze for the English language and the English ways. If we would have possessed real love and concern for our mother, motherland and mother-tongue, why would we uphold the English language and English customs at the cost of our own? Secondly, we must realize that after we compelled the Britishers to leave our country on 15th August, 1947, we no more need to follow their ways and customs. Why voluntarily be slaves of those English when today we are free to serve our mother, motherland and mother-tongue?

The sooner we realize it, the better that learning the language is only for equipping ourselves to compete in today’s competitive world, and it should not be for any kind of false pride. Otherwise, we’ll be nothing else but the washer-man’s dog – neither of home, nor of ‘ghat’. So, let’s put effort in learning our mother-tongue. Long Live our Assamese Language! Long Live all our Mother Tongues!

Pranab Kr Saikia