For How Long Shall We Speak A Foreign National Language? The Case Of India.

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For How Long Shall We Speak A Foreign National Language? The Case Of India. Empty For How Long Shall We Speak A Foreign National Language? The Case Of India.

Post  nex on Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:36 pm

"Before we can call our country our own, it is necessary that there should be born in our hearts a love and respect for our language"

Gandhi (1901).


A beginner certainly Gandhi was at that time, but nevertheless a master of agitations, who only knew very well the pulse of the Indian ethos and who only, had the right weapons of Passive Resistance, Non-cooperation, Civil Disobedience and so on, to fight against the all powerful British Empire. Gandhi not only emphasized the importance of Indian vernaculars in the education of the masses, but used them directly as appropriate tools to fight for the independence of India.


For Gandhi, in 1907 itself (1) the real home rule is self-rule or self control, (2) the way to it is passive resistance: that is soul force or love force, (3) in order to exert this force, "Swadeshi" in every sense is necessary, (4) ….. we will certainly not use their (English) machine made goods, nor use the English language, nor many of their industries (Quoted in Kaushik 1964 : 43). He wrote in 1909 while at London in his capacity as a member of the second South African Delegation (Gandhi 1956 : 1881-91) that

from the point of view of language before we can call 'our country' our own, it is necessary that there should be born in our hearts a love and respect for our languages .…. One sometimes also hears suggestions that something should be done so that all Indians are able to express themselves to each other in a common language. This is a possibility for the future. Everybody will agree that this language should be Indian in origin. But this step is for the future. We should begin to be proud of being born Indians and similarly we should also be proud of having been born Gujaratis [Gandhi was writing in Gujarati to a Gujarati audience]. Without such consciousness we shall be neither here nor there … It is necessary for the people of one province to learn the languages of other provinces as well … If we spend only half the effort we do in learning English in the learning of Indian languages, there will be born a new atmosphere in the country and a good measure of progress will be achieved.…. The character of a people is evident in its language….. Those who have to serve their country and do public work will have to find time for their mother tongue.

Sometimes we lose sight of the great emphasis Gandhi laid on the use of the mother tongue and see him only as a champion of Hindi.


Raising the question "whether English can become our national language," Gandhi listed the following criteria for any language to become "our national language," in his presidential address at the Second Gujarat Educational Conference at Broach in 1917 (Gandhi 1956:3).

1. It should be easy to learn for Government officials.

2. It should be capable of serving as a medium of religious, economic and political intercourse throughout India.

3. It should be the speech of the majority of the inhabitants of India.

4. It should be easy to learn for the whole of the country.

5. In choosing this language considerations of temporary or passing interest should not count.

Gandhi concluded that

English does not fulfill any of these requirements …... We shall have to admit that it is Hindi..… There, now remains the question of script. For the present, Muslims will certainly use the Urdu script and Hindus will mostly write in Devanagari.…. No other language can compete with Hindi in satisfying these five requirements.…. Thus, we see that Hindi alone can become the national language. No doubt it presents some difficulty to the educated classes of Madras. …. If Hindi attains to its due status then it will be introduced in every school in Madras and Madras will thus be in a position to cultivate acquaintance with other province….. In general, however, the ways, which have been suggested for the promotion of the Mother tongue, may with suitable modifications be applied to the national language. The responsibility of making Gujarati the medium of instruction will have to be shouldered mainly by us but in the movement to popularize the national language the whole country must play its part (Gandhi 1956: 3-7).

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