Sunday, February 23, 2014

De-Macaulayization - 3

Some relatives of mine visited Israel recently.  They had a language problem, most of the people understood no English, only Hebrew.   This was surprising to me, I thought that American influence on Israel was much greater. 

(via Shadow Warrior) In the first of a pair of recent articles in the Hindu, Shekar Swamy (Group CEO, RK Swamy Hansa, and Visiting Faculty, Northwestern University) points out that in India, English is not used as much as one might think, and that vast pools of talent are left untapped by requiring English.

In the second article,  Swamy points out that of the top ten countries in volume of exports (China, USA, Germany, Japan, France, South Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy and UK) all of them conduct their business in their native language.
We often hear that India’s success in IT is only due to the predominance of English in the country. While it has been useful to have a pool of English-speaking people to draw from for the IT industry, to conclude that therefore English should be the dominant language is hugely misleading. 

Take the case of Samsung Electronics. Among the predominant IT companies in the world, it from South Korea where the Korean language is predominant. 

Set up in 1969, Samsung in 2012 recorded global sales of $189 billion which is higher than the sales of the two tech giants IBM (sales $105 billion) and Microsoft ($78 billion) combined. This demolishes the theory that English has to be the predominant language of the country for success in the global IT world. 

What is required for success is a clear intent, converted into powerful strategy and backed by relentless execution --- and not the English language.
 His conclusion:
The negative impact of this policy on the country has been huge, with the masses kept out of participating in the development of the nation by a linguistic wall, resulting in perhaps the largest underutilisation of human capital ever. At a time when the country was required to be participative, democratic and all inclusive, laying emphasis on English made the nation become a preserve of the exclusive and the elite.


While English can remain optional, every Indian should have the opportunity to get ahead on the basis of knowing his/her own language. There will be a surge in growth if people are able to learn and grow and participate in their own language.

Thinking afresh on the language issue will be hugely beneficial. Is any political party willing to see this opportunity?
My take is that there are some logistical barriers, especially the fact that India has scores of millions of speakers of each of about fourteen major languages, that already major literary languages.  By the same token though, there is a huge audience for any decent quality translations and for original books.