Monday, June 25, 2007

Why vernacular?

The latest court verdict in Karnataka concerns the 2000 odd schools in the state to switch to Kannada as the medium of instruction bypassing English. English is the global medium of communication and it is imperative that we get a good grasp of the language that would aid us in the development process. Here, it is not the question of promoting your local language, but you are effectively terminating the ability of the children to come up in a competitive environment.

In India, every state has a language of its own along with the national language, Hindi. Being born and brought up in India, there is no doubt that it is important to learn your local language as well as the national language. But that doesn't mean that you should shun English. India is emerging as a major global power and we are dependent on our western allies to work in close co-ordination and improve the economy. As long as a person has the basic knowledge to speak, read and write in the local language, it should more than suffice for him to live happily in the area. But what happens if he decides to leave the area in pursuit of higher studies or some other reason. He would be virtually handicapped without English. Who in the world would come to his aid if he has to learn the technical know hows in English? One may argue taking into account the example of the European nations. It is very true that people in Germany or France may not take up English seriously. But how many of them move out of their countries in search of a living. They are self sufficient in almost everything. Name any automobile major and Germany has its headquarters cemented there. People from these countries do not find it a necessity to go out of their den. In spite of that, there is every effort on the part of these Governments to promote English.

We are able to compete with our Asian supergiant China since we have overcome the language barrier to a better extent than them. Our primary strength lies in our education system which promotes English right from the primary level, and this enables us to get a good command over a period of time. We are in a stage where we should be getting along with things, not fall behind due to ridiculous opinions from high end quarters.

Kannada, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali and other vernacular languages are really important. It is our duty to preserve these languages. There is no doubt about that. But, they should not be a hindrance causing us to neglect English. How many politicians are sending their kids to the local medium schools? Almost all of them are well educated in good convents with a expensive fee structure. As the saying goes Charity begins at home, these people should serve as an example to the society and send their kids to the local medium schools. Let us see how many would sacrifice their political ideals when it comes to them.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to see a competitive India. We should not be left behind due to petty political squabbles. It is easy to ruin the present and get back to the past. The future beckons something really important and we should be in a position to find our way through.


  1. agree...English is very important to learn..But I also say that being an Indian it is very very important that all Indians know Hindi....i agree all regional languages are important, but Hindi is the national we sing the national anthem in a regional why shouldn't everyone know Hindi is my question...

  2. See, every language is important. It is not just about Hindi or Kannada or Tamil. According to me, everyone should know the state language, national language as well as English. All three are important. Tell me one thing, You are good in hindi, does that mean you will be learning Wireless Communications, DSP and Microprocessors in Hindi?

  3. U got me wrong...I still agree 100 percent tht the medium of education should be English. That shouldnt change at all. All I am saying is that people of our country from every part should be encouraged to learn hindi too

  4. Thats really terrible news....the children of the future in Karnataka will not have much command over the english language now and since outside India, without english life is impossible, these kids have a major drawback compared to other something about it GK....the people who have made this change have nothing to lose but gain the respect of the senior citizens who think teaching kids traditions is the ultimate thing.....karnataka thinks they have achieved something by doing this.....yes they have....they are taking the backwards path....soon they will be in the stone age...!!!!

  5. Anonymous: I know it is not the right situation to be in, and somebody has to step in and explain the importance of surviving in the Global world. It is not that we would be getting back to the stone age if we don't learn English, but just that we wouldn't be able to compete with the big guns of today's world!!! That according to me is as bad as going to the past!!!!

  6. From my friend (**not my opinion) :-
    Vernacular is not equivalent to ignorant. I do not believe that English should be the main medium of instruction across India. For them probably brain drain is worse than having a unsophisticated citizen. As long as they do not "ban" English as medium of communication, we should not bother with their decision.

  7. Vyas: I never said being vernacular meant being ignorant. Who are we to decide about brain drain? It is the individual's choice whether he wants to go abroad to study or settle in India. He should be entitled to that option and not miss out because of the language barrier.

  8. GK, It is not my comment. This is my friend Mahesh.

  9. The linguistic division of states in India has created a complex situation. Since the majority of jobs require English speaking capabilities and not the national language...learning the vernacular, then, has to be in the interest of preserving the culture of the state....everyone must be atleast bilingual or trilingual!

  10. Sowmya: The point is we have to know the national language. There is no denying that! The truth is we have to get going in a trilingual direction. We have no choice. We can't neglect our national language over the state language and vice versa. But, ultimately, English is a must!

  11. Krishna Chaitanya EmaniJune 29, 2007 at 3:38 PM

    Praveen... I dont want to comment on this blog... you know why??? in the last paragraph you mentioned all the languages but you forgot Telugu... so I am not impressed by your blog... so not comments on this... heheehehehehehehehe...

    But I accept to you... English shud be the medium of teaching. But everyone shud know how to read and write their mother tounge. And as Shubika mentioned hindi also.

  12. Emani: That's exactly the point I am trying to convey here. There is no choice but to go trilingual!!!

  13. Praveen, check facts.

    I guess this ruling applies to the schools which took the license from the Govt for Kannada medium schools and then converted into English medium illegally. I think it is a good decision by the court to get them back on track.

    Anyway, I strongly disagree to your view that learning in vernacular language along with English for few years would hamper their ability to compete. My parents, Aunts everybody studied in vernacular language schools for nearly 10 years. They have reached positions that I can only dream off. I have studied in Kannada medium schools for first 9 years. I don’t think it has been a problem to me. If you just think working in US or UK (english speaking countries) is being globally competitive then you are mistaken. I am sure Germany, France and Japan would be very backward in this is the case. China will be soon very big and people will want to study in Chinese medium schools in the futre :-)

    Please modify your views.


  14. Yadu: I never said that one shouldnt learn Kannada, but the point is the importance of English. Those were different times when your aunt or uncle were educated in Kannada medium schools. How much of an opportunity one had to chalk out a career apart from a good govt. job. Now, times have changed.

    Germany, France and Japan are more than self-sufficient. How many Germans or French people do you see in the US? But, the best part is there is an effort on the part of these govts. to promote English also right. That is what is important. All I am saying is an individual should not lose out on a good career because of his lack of communication skills.

    Definitely there are alternate streams of career paths, but my question is, why close out on an avenue?

    Today, you have come to the US (I agree it is because of your technical abilities too), imagine, if tomorrow, somebody wants to come here and he is not accepted because he has no ways to communicate. That would be criminal.

    I totally do not agree to your view that we should neglect English (which is what your comment looks like)!!!!

  15. You did not answer the main point of discussion. If some schools take license for Kannada medium schools and open english medium schools how can it be legal? Let them take license for english medium schools and open.

    Just to clarify:

    1) "Those were different times when your aunt or uncle were educated in Kannada medium schools. How much of an opportunity one had to chalk out a career apart from a good govt. job. Now, times have changed."

    Other than my mother nobody else is working for govt. Nobody went to Kannada medium school to get Govt Jobs. They had option to choose english medium schools but they started with local language. It should be a choice left to the people.

    2) "I totally do not agree to your view that we should neglect English (which is what your comment looks like)!!!!"

    Again, you do not understand. I guess you are taking this too personally or emotionally. Read again what I have written (With an open mind).

    I never said we should neglect english. Did I? I say and strongly agree that everybody should learn english as a communication language. There is difference in language and medium.

    3) "How many Germans or French people do you see in the US?" This is the best part isn't it? They are working for development their country, unlike us. That should be our goal too. If working in US is our goal then I agrtee to your view.

  16. Yadu: OK, License taken for Kannada medium schools to be converted to English medium is definitely not right. I agree to your viewpoint. But from a broader perspective, I feel that English should be the medium of instruction ahead of the vernacular languages. Definitely, we should learn the other languages, no doubt about that.

    It is not only your parents, even my parents were educated in Tamil medium. My father has got a way better command over the English language than me. I agree, but how many people would be able to get a command over the language?

    Coming to the Germans and French, I totally agree with you, they are serving their countries. India right now is going through a phase, where the services sector is getting the major chunk of our GDP. So, we have to live with our times. Even in India, most of the govt. jobs have English as the medium right! How many of them in the central govt. actually use Hindi?

    See, the point is this, there is nothing wrong in having vernacular medium schools, but imagine the kid, if he is not exposed to English till after high school, how tough it would be for him to pursue his education? How many of our Engineering/basic science/med schools have the local language as the medium of instruction? Even if we have to serve our own country without going out, we need to strike upon a common medium of communication. Definitely, Hindi is there, but knowing the people from South, you can imagine the command over the language. If we learn our local south Indian languages, we can't survive in the north. So, what is the option that we are left with?

    One more thing, there is a difference when you have smething as a medium of instruction and communication! If the kannada medium schools teach English, then there is no problem. But, if not, it is really bad!

    Again, nothing personal or emotional in the comments!!! Just that am looking for logical reasons!!!!

  17. Praveen, first understand that language (English/Kannada) here has two roles to play.

    1) Language as a communication (interaction between two people) tool

    2) Language as learning medium. (learning to shape the way you think, learn how to count, how to observe things around you to understand why they behave the way they do, improving your aptitude etc )

    When you said “English is the global medium of communication and it is imperative that we get a good grasp of the language,” it’s the English as communication tool that you should be referring to. Do you think that learning (basic physics, chemistry, math etc) in native language and also having a good hold over English Communication will make a person globally incompetent? Nobody is saying that English shouldn’t be taught as a Language in schools. Isn’t it easier for a child to understand if you teach how to add, subtract, or explain how chemicals react, or what celestial bodies are or why the apple falls down to ground from the tree etc, in a language the kid is already comfortable with? I agree that there are many kids in Karnataka who are not comfortable with the local language (especially in Bangalore, there are some people who were born and brought up in Bangalore and still don’t know to speak in Kannada), let them join English medium schools. Karnataka HC has not completely banned English medium schools. It’s asking those schools which have taken license to teach in Kannada to be loyal to the promise they had made and start teaching in Kannada Medium.

    My only point here is that, just because one learnt in English Medium doesn’t make him globally competent, it’s how well he can communicate in English and this can be achieved by learning English as Language in schools. For this you don’t need to use English as a medium to gain knowledge or to develop skills. Actually, primary education in native language makes learning process easier for the child (Think of the larger population, don’t just consider “kids” born and brought up in “Bangalore”).

  18. GK, referring to your reply to Yadu's comment....

    Nobody is making Kannada Medium compulsory for High School its only for primary schools (1st - 4th STD).

  19. Rama: Yes, I agree with what you say. I was under the assumption that English is not at all taught in these schools. At the end of the day, it is important that we are technically competent, and here language is not the barrier. But, when it comes to conveying the information to others, then language should not be a barrier. This is where knowing English helps. It is important to achieve the right balance between the two. Thanks for thrwoing light!!!

  20. Krishna Chaitanya EmaniJuly 2, 2007 at 7:24 AM

    Hey Praveen,
    Reading all the comments on the blog and the views of Yadu and Rama... I got a thought. The discussion has always been on the medium but the other important point to be considered is the purpose of education. As Rama said, most of the people in the villages back in India think about having basic education. I accept to the fact that knowing English will help you compete in the Global Arena.

    Majority of the kids today want to study only to get a command on the daily transactions that they do... its either money transactions or whatever. And teaching in the mother tounge might help the kid understand things better. In some cases that might ignite the thoughts in a kid. That might help the kid to get even better insight on the science and technology so he can then jump into english medium in 6th standard and gradually increase his command over the language to tackle the competing world. This would solve your problem too GK, that most of the higher education institutes in India are English medium.

    My personal opinion... English should be taught as a language in the primary school with the medium being mother tongue... and it can be made a medium from pre-high school or high school. And infact on that day when India becomes a land of opportunities we can have it completely vernacular (with Hindi) just like Germany and China.

  21. Emani: Ultimately, technical knowledge takes precedence over anything. There is no doubt about that!!!

  22. Hi Gk I will first give you a few facts and then make my argument. kannada is the third oldest language of ur country(sanskrit , tamil being the first 2). it is older then even hindi. kannada is a language which has been analyzed by language experts and is said to be perfect in the sense most languages in the world can use it as a script. kannada has a rich heritage of literature, i believe one can learn as much from it as from school curriculum. kannada has 7 janapeetha awards( more then any other language, bengali, hindi at 5 being second).
    Now here is what i have to say. first of all you have misinterpreted the facts. the ruling is for aided schools from 1-4. since we have such a good heritage wouldnt it be nice to have medium of instruction as kannada in ur lower primary. it will improve your knowledge of the language and give u a command. english till then will be a language. then when u switch over to english at a later stage, it will not harm you in any way. i totally disagree with you when u say that people from kannada medium cant make it big. I dont think there is any engineering college with kannada medium. yes english is a global language and we are studying it, but why forget what we have. it is not just about knowing kannada to speak it is about knowing the language well enough to able to enjoy it. and that is why ours is the only state in which we study 3 languages from 4-10th standard. you should appreciate it. first know yourself and then be global. i feel starting english medium from a later stage is no hindrance at all. and they are not forcing the private schools to do it. i know compelling some one to do something is bad, but have we left them a choice??
    To end on a lighter note, yes shubika we do sing our national anthem in a regional language. it is bengali..

  23. Emani: Yes, it is wonderful to know our language, but my argument is why not learn it as a second language with the medium of instruction being English! I know all these facts about Kannada, and my basic idea was not to undermine any language. I am just looking at a point of view that would enable us to be well equipped globally.

    One thing I did not realise was that these schools were making a mockery of the state govt by promising them the medium of education to be in Kannada(mainly for tax exemption) and then switching over to English to make money. That is totally ridiculous and these guys do not have any moral right to run schools.

    Sure, there is nothing wrong in knowing two or three languages!!!

    Whatever it is, at any point, we cannot shy away from English (whatever may be the argument!) and in any case it is impossible to shy away from kannada if you are in Karnataka(though I know specimens who are reluctant to speak in kannada after staying here for twenty years!!)!!!! Of course, in our curriculum, we are lucky to have English, Kannada and Hindi and it depends on you as to what sort of a competency you need in each!!!

  24. The previous comment was meant to be for Mysore, not Emani!!!! :-)

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  26. Praveena, on your reply to Mysore's comment...

    U are missing the point here again. Getting basic education in a language u already know (Kannada in Karnataka)makes the learning process easier. While getting basic education in native language, let them learn English. once the kid gets comfortable with English (Middle School or High School), let them continue their higher education in "Global" language English. And do you think a person cant get a perspective if he gets education in Kannada? Only thing is, he wont be able to converse in globally if he doesnt know English. Anyways, the kid isn't going to compete in the Global arena in the middle school itself!

    If somebody wants to convey any message or point using a particular language, don't you think the person on the receiving end should be comfortable with that language? Just think, which language were you more comfortable with when you were in 1st standard? Tamil or English? (I can definitely say it wasn't Kannada ;) )

  27. Rama: Obviously there is no doubt that we will be comfortable in our mother tongue. That is the whole point why I am saying that English should be learnt from an early age, so that the child can get comfortable over a period of time.

    Imagine if you are not exposed to English till 7th or 8th, the child might develop an inferiority complex in front of others, and it will take a lot of time for him/her to adapt to English. That would be really harmful, and would affect the personality of the child.

    There should be gradual exposure to English right from an early age and learn to get comfortable with it!!!!

    I know that the kind of argument this is, it can go on for days!!!

  28. Learning English as language, don't you consider that as exposure? Learn English as Language, read good English books at free time etc etc will be a good "exposure" that'll help to get comfortable with language. For that, you needn't learn other skills through English as medium. Getting educated in English medium itself doesn't save you from developing inferiority complex, but its the interest you have in learning and using the English as Language that gives you confidence. I know many people who have been educated in English medium since their childhood and still lack confidence in their spoken English ability.

    Praveena, with these arguments, we are just chasing each other around a circle. I am not going to read your reply to my comments anymore, that'll only make us go on chasing each other..... ;)

  29. Rama: Good luck, mate. Keep in touch. Hope I get to meet you soon!!!!

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  31. You know what I am going to tell you right now. You also know it cant be typed here. So, call me if you cant figure out what it is and want to hear it straight from my mouth (I promise you, it'll be in English for sure, not in Kannada)!

    Take Care... See you soon (Next Weekend)