COLUMN/ LINE IN THE SAND
Dr. Kallol Guha
A popular Indian media house recently presented a news item about Taiwan seeking to learn English. The way the news was narrated, it appeared as if English was excluded from Taiwan’s education system.
Now, it is important to realise that the presentation of the news content and the words that are carefully selected are designed to transmit a certain message. The primary objective of the broadcast is not the dissemination of the news itself, but the transmission of a message hidden in the news that serves the interest of, in this case, the corporate class.
An excerpt from the news item in question says: “Taiwan wants people to learn English, and it’s ready to spend almost a billion dollars to push for it. The government says it wants to make English bilingual, and it has set a deadline for 2030. The money will be spent over the next five years. What do people in Taiwan speak right now? Mostly, Mandarin Chinese. Why does Taipei want to switch to English? To boost its economy.”
Let’s try to understand why a mainstream media outlet in India is presenting this news item in a big way, and what the hidden agenda could be, if any, behind such a narrative.
Taiwan ‘wants’ to learn English
The news item seems to convey the message that learning English is the key to boosting the economy of any country. Now, most of the people who watched the presentation aren’t likely to question if English could boost the economy, then why are Anglophonic Africa, the whole of the Caribbean, and most of South Asia suffering from grinding poverty and underdevelopment ever since the people of these countries were tricked or forced to adopt English for the last two centuries?
It seems the mainstream corporate media tries to hide the fact that schooling in mother tongue as the primary language is one of the most important factors for promoting a country’s technological development. The education system of every developed country, without any exception, uses mother tongue as the medium of instruction.
Renowned educationists from all over the world tell us that there can’t be any constructive thought process without language. An English person can think best in English. Same with Chinese as well. Hence, schooling must use native language as one of absorption to facilitate thorough understanding of a given concept.
The concept, when thoroughly understood, may be expressed in multiple languages, which are languages of expression.
Let’s go back to the news item. The presenter says: “English is the global language of business. One-fifth of the world speaks it. So, it makes sense to do business in a language that most people understand.”
Let’s understand why this is an important statement. Since the end of World War II, the planet has been dominated by the Anglo-American West and English is their language. Hence, English has been closely associated with the politics of world hegemony, which means, exercising control over the world population and natural resources exclusively for the economic gain of the West.
It is, therefore, understood that progress of a nation in the modern world is likely to be stalled if a significant number of people in that country can’t express their thoughts in English. In the countries of South Asia, that number is only about 5% or a little higher, and in Africa, the figure is just about 2%. In contrast, in all the developed countries of the West, between 80-90% of the people are schooled to express their thoughts in English.
Goal of English language schooling
The difference is, in what the West loves to demeaningly call the Third World, the goal of schooling is not about teaching English. Instead, it’s designed to make the learners slavishly imitate people whose mother tongue is English. Economically targeted countries – essentially the West’s Third World – are fertile grounds for training natives to imitate the body language, attire, food habits, gesticulations, speech, and even the skin colour and features of western anglophones at the expense of all sense of self-respect, pride, and prestige.
In other words, schools of the economically targeted world, under the pretext of English-medium ‘education’, clearly seem to be designed to delink the young generation from their country of origin.
Back to the news item again – the anchor goes on to say: “Promoting a language that facilitates business is essential. It makes sense. Taiwan sees multiple benefits from its switch to English. It will help domestic companies do well abroad. It will attract more foreign investment and tourists, and will make Taipei more competitive.”
The narrative claims that Taiwan will enjoy multiple benefits by switching from Mandarin to English. The futility of this comment becomes clear once you look at some examples, such as China, Japan, South Korea, and much of the so-called ‘developed’ Western world including Germany, France, Scandinavia, and Italy, in particular. These countries are strict about the use of their native language, not only for schooling, but also for all aspects of domestic administration.
It is interesting that the Italian government recently introduced a proposed law seeking to ban the use of foreign words, with special reference to English, in all government communication and government paperwork. It has been proposed that violation of the directive may lead to a penalty of up to €100,000.
European countries such as France, Germany, and even Russia introduced similar restrictive measures long ago. There is no evidence whatsoever of any adverse effect on international business owing to the pronounced use of indigenous languages to run domestic administration in these countries.
In fact, this is what all so-called ‘developed’ or rich countries, without exception, practice with religious dedication. Countries that look up to the culture and languages of their colonial masters despising their own are invariably pauperised, underdeveloped, and slavishly loyal to the West. These realities are never discussed or explained in mainstream Anglo-American media outlets.
The mainstream media of the economically targeted nations – the so-called ‘Third World’ – which are mostly owned by Western corporate houses or partly bankrolled by church networks, are highly ignorant of this reality and actively try to downplay it.
The ruling oligarchs of the economically targeted countries have invented weird logic to support the slavish imitation of Anglo-American language and culture, and justify despising everything indigenous.
The reason why Italy, France, Russia and many other prosperous countries have outrightly banned what they see as an infiltration of English words in their respective mother tongues will be conveniently and dutifully hushed up, so that psychological enslavement of the targeted, poorer world through Western schooling is not questioned.
In this backdrop, it becomes clear that the real purpose of the recent narrative that Taiwan wants to embrace English for its economic wellness is misleading.
Role of English language in India
Let’s take the case of India. The story is a bit more complicated with the South Asian country. Only about 10% of India knows English, but considering India’s large population, it’s a pretty big number. India has the second largest English-speaking population in the world. It’s a massive market that foreign firms tap into, and they also see India as a source of English-speaking labour.
Now, the news report we have been dissecting claims that English is a route to upward mobility, and it allowed some of us to thrive economically.
There are a couple of important points to be noted here. In India, about 140 million people, due to Western-style schooling and a deep English language influence, are able to express their thoughts in English. The fact is, domestic administration in India is conducted exclusively in English in the interest of and by these 140 million anglophonic Indians, who are sometimes criticized with the slur ‘kala angrez’, meaning ‘black Englishmen’.
Without fluency in English, access is denied to higher technical education, competitive exams, job interviews, court proceedings, applications to government offices, business transactions, etc. In short, access is denied to all forms of dignified living.
Comparatively lower-level roles and menial tasks are the only option for India’s indigenous non-anglophonic population, often referred to as ‘desi’. How can any nation talk of progress and prosperity by marginalising about 90% of its population? Sadly, the role of this 90% is to pay 30-35 taxes, vote once in five years, work as menials or as low-ranking government, army, and police personnel.
For a certain section of non-anglophonic Indians, it is living like a foreigner in their country of origin. It is not much different from the days of British misrule when a White English community of just 30,000 ruled over 350 million Indians. Sadly, it was 30,000 then, and 140 million today.
The goal of a civilised, conscientious, and cultured nation shouldn’t be to train cheap labour through imitation schooling and despising everything indigenous. This kind of schooling is a classic feature of colonial culture, designed to cripple the creativity of indigenous populations, and degrade the quality of human resources.
Any nation, when exposed to such measures, inevitably loses its creativity and ability to contribute to any technological development. Its only convincing role becomes supplying cheap labor. This is exactly the role the economically targeted countries are playing. It also explains why over the last 100 years of technological advancement, the so-called ‘Third World’ has made no contribution to the human race other than supplying cheap labour and raw materials.
It is true that so-called ‘developed’ countries have a population of 80-90% who can express their thoughts in English. This makes sense from their point of view. More of the economically targeted world’s population should be schooled to express their thoughts in English, and to find their bearings in a world dominated by the Anglo-American West.
Contradiction: English vs. native language
Why is this not a contradictory statement in the context where mother tongue-based education is being heavily emphasised? The explanation that’s given is, whereas education and domestic administration must be conducted in the medium of mother tongue to ensure better grasp of concepts delivered through schooling, other secondary languages must be added to facilitate the expression of concepts grasped in school.
Every developed country, as explained earlier, strictly uses its indigenous language as the medium of instruction at all levels of education and domestic administration. Why? This is essential to facilitate a thorough grasp of concepts required to promote individual creativity and consequent technological development of the nation. And this explains why the rich, hawkish nations use their native language as the medium of instruction and domestic administration.
To go back to the news presentation, the narrative’s main aim is to make viewers believe that English is likely to bring about more economic prosperity to Taiwan. The manufactured lesson from the narrative is, learning English is the ultimate saviour from all difficult economic situations.
The question is, should India continue to be soaked more and more in Anglo-American influence, especially on the language front? If the status quo continues, India will witness further degradation of the already degraded quality of the human resources. The quality of human resources is of great concern to Italy, France, and Russia, who are fiercely resisting the influence of English out of a deep sense of national self-respect and dignity. Aren’t these important lessons to learn for India? Wake up Taiwan. Wake up India.
(Dr. Kallol Guha is a geopolitical analyst, educator, entrepreneur, and President of St. James School of Medicine, Illinois, US. He resides in Chicago)
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