'The Last Lesson' by Alphons Daudet is a story set in Alsace and Lorraine which has been passed into Prussia. The people of this place are not allowed to speak their native language-French. This sets every person in the town pondering their mistake of not taking their language seriously. The story is about linguistic chauvinism and the importance of holding on to one's native language. There is a beautiful quote in the story: "When a people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison."

India, a free nation, is yet to be free from the language barriers. On 15th August (ironically) my four-year-old daughter was attending her class. She had to say the thought of the day, which was in English. I was helping her memories the line when in chagrin she asked, "Mumma, why can't I say it in Hindi?" I didn't have an answer to her question. There are many talented students who can add value to a discussion in the class but they shut themselves just because English has become the lingua franca in schools now. Children are fined for speaking Hindi on the school premises.

The main purpose of language is to communicate. People with speech and hearing impairment also communicate in their special language. Try speaking in any audible language with them; you won't be able to communicate. However, if an Indian is visiting any English-speaking nation, then he must have the faculty of communicating in a language that is understood by the masses. What is unacceptable is that in India, speaking English is a status symbol, and symbol of education.

If an Indian is fluent in English he gets instant adoration and privilege. Don’t we see people switching to English when they know they can’t win an argument? Even if you are fluent in English there is the other aspect of supremacy-pronunciation. If you don't pronounce a word as per IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and RP (Received Pronunciation) then you are laughed at on the other hand if a British or American pronounces something in an utter foolish way, it is considered cute. Hindi words like Verandah (baramda), Bandana (Bandhna), Thug (TThug), and Cot (khaat) have now English pronunciation, although these are loan words, yet an Indian can't speak it in Hindi pronunciation.


They say in Rome, do as the Romans do but in India, the rule is: In India do as the English do! The British colonized our country in a strategic manner. Despite a rich cultural heritage and sophistication, the British made us believe that we are inferior. They did it by rejecting our culture and announcing it as terra nullius or ‘nobody’s land’. This means that the land was living in the age of darkness and ignorance before the colonizers came. The rights of indigenous people are barred in such land. Today, the British have left but we are still holding on to the ‘legacy’ they left.

Does it mean we should chuck this language totally? The answer is- No. English is a beautiful language. English gives the reader an opportunity to read the best works around the world translated into this popular language. Learning only this language is a passport to Australia, America, and many European countries. English is a dynamic language i.e. it keeps adding new words and changing according to the country and surroundings. That is the reason we have different Englishes (sic) namely American English, British English, Irish English, New Zealander, and Australian English, and many more.

Learning any language adds to one's skills of communication but making it an absolute necessity is not right. The words don’t speak when expressions and emotions come into play. Two, totally, different people can still communicate their thoughts reading signs from body language (Do you remember English Vinglish where Sridevi and Laurent couldn’t understand a single word of each other’s language yet they have the heart to heart talk). Yet we need words to make it understandable.

The language is that which can communicate. It makes absolutely no sense to make a foreign language mandatory and impose fines on the people using their nation’s language. It also makes no sense to judge people on their fluency of speaking English and labeling them as educated or uneducated. We can make our language our power. Let us not be ashamed of speaking in Hindi. Just like Neeraj Chopra, Javelin thrower gold medalist in Olympic 2020, let us take the stand and not bend like the cricketers who hesitated and forced themselves to learn English than spending time polishing their cricketing skills. Just like Japan, let us spend time improving our talent in our field than feeling inferior about our language. We will have to take this liberty. We will have to take the stand. We will have to be free that would be true freedom. The freedom in letter and spirit.

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