Let’s Leave English as English
Resham Bahadur Bista
I joined my college and started to study English without knowing the real purpose of studying English. I was enchanted towards English because of its charming in my school. There was always the scarcity of the teachers of English in the school. The people who used to speak English were supposed to be great and unique in the context of the village. Many people of my village want to make their children prefect in English. Because of the latent influence of English in my immature psychology, I started to study English. With the passage of time, basically I knew that we get pleasure reading English and to be extra-ordinary in the society.
Now my realization is quite different about the influence of English. I think we waste our half of lives reading the bulky English books about European and American lives, arts, cultures, philosophies and the English language. Most of the students are enrolled in English department for the study of English in our universities. The Nepali language, arts, cultures, literature etc. seem to be ignored in our universities because there are very few students to study these subjects. We all are enchanted towards English to seek jobs, name and fame. We are lured towards it with a hope of being consumed in the international market. English has been taken as a subject to minimize the distance between the local and the global in the contemporary world. It brings the people of world close together, creates the global village as a contact language. It is an international language, spoken all over the world, and a medium of developing the bilateral and multilateral relationships among the countries of the world today.
These are the basic widespread assumptions of the English language which we share in our classrooms. After completion of my masters’ degree, I started to teach in schools and colleges and shared such assumptions of English that I had got in my studies. I am pursuing my career by teaching the English language, literature, culture, history and sociology of Europe and America. Our issues of classroom are the issues of dense technologically advanced society of Europe and America which may not match in our society. Now questions are raise in my monotonous mind influenced by English: Is our mind not colonized by the English language? Are we wasting our time and efforts by reading those bulky books of English which are intend to colonize our mind and body? Are we independent as the legacy of colonized mind? These unanswered questions always haunt my parasitic mind. Frankly telling, we are parasitized by the hidden agenda of westernization and Americanization.
Everyone knows that literature is the mirror of the society and should serve the society because human consciousness is always determined by the political, social and cultural phenomena of a society. But what the western literary texts teach us is that non-western people are vulgar, lusty, spiritual and uncivilized whereas westerns are calm, civilized and superior. They labeled us as uncivilized by creating dichotomy between the East and the West. Although we people always worship to westerners and imitate their life-styles and behaviors, we have forgotten our own socio-economic values and the smell of maternal soil but we only dream of Europe and America. What is our own academic uniqueness? European and American are in our schools and universities with disguised forms; we are coloring their notions in our ground and adopting them in the name of being enlightened.
Most of our universities have prescribed the English curriculum as designed by the west in the name of meeting the international standard. Bulky books of art, philosophy, literature, pedagogy and theory and teaching methodology developed and designed by the westerners are taught in our schools universities. To some extent, all these may not necessarily be suitable in our contexts. The ideas given in their books can not correspond to our local realities. What is the utility of those theories, philosophies, teaching methods, and techniques developed by westerns in our contexts, where almost half of the population is either illiterate or semi-literate? Why does our government not make any strategies to make them literate and cope up with the problematic situations of our context? What is the use of these different Isms to us who do not have even a nice pair of cloths to put on?
Such a condition of English has exploited our freedom and virginity. It does not lead us to freedom, prosperity, and liberty. Instead it corrupts our body and soul. We are absurd puppets dancing with the tunes of others. After 1950s, the formal colonization of the West was stagnated by the third world countries and the movements taken place in different epochs of history. Then the notion of imperialism starts to spread in the world in disguised forms to spread its knowledge, culture, and manner in the developing and undeveloped countries. It comes in the East to learn and support us in different sectors. They are imposing colonialists’ discourses through the English language. The influence of English upon the colonized people was started from the time of formal colonization. In this regard, Tyson mentions, “that so many people formally colonized by Britain speak English, write in English, use English in their schools and universities, and conduct government business in English, in addition to the local languages they may use at home, is an indication of the residual effect of colonial domination on their cultures. In fact, the dynamic psychological and social interplay between what ex-colonial populations considers their native, indigenous, pre-colonial culture and the British culture that was on them constitutes a large portion…”(p.419).
Tyson says that the influence of English was started during the time of British colonization period. Colonized people started to speak English because of the colonizers’ influence. So English does not depict our own identity. The long history of English in the non-western world is influenced by colonizers. Now the English of our classroom is also an indirect and latent form of colonization. So, let us be aware of this fact and not support imperialistic tendency. As we all know that the truth and facts of life are not solved by studying the Westerners’ arts, literature, and philosophy. There are no more rubbers than the Western hegemonic books and tendency.
In such situation what should be done? Do we avoid the English or not in the context of non-western? In Nepal, it is very difficult to adopt the English absolutely because Nepal is very rich in diverse culture and language. There are many languages communities in Nepal like Tharu, Kirat, Newari and Maitili, etc. There is a danger of elimination of Nepali and indigenous languages unless the proper policies and their effective implementations. On the other hand, the craze of English is expanding day by day because of the hegemony of westernization. So, non-westerners are in the ambivalence position about the adopting the English.
In Nepal English was once the language of elites and rulers but now it has reached the access of mass from urban cities to remote village. It has become the indicator of civilized, educated and qualified persons in the context of our country. Whether rich or poor each class has tested the fruit of English. Now people of third world cannot separate from English because it has hallucination to them. America produces the coca cola and sends it in third world, people of third world start to drink it. They are habituated with its taste. Now, they have forgotten the taste of MOHI (local drink made by curt which is replaced by coca-cola). In the same way English in our context is in the form of coca-cola, which is replacing our indigenous languages.
In Nepal, thousands of English academic institutions are mushrooming day by day treating their areas as an ‘English speaking zones’. Nepalese literary texts; poems, essays, fictions etc. have also been written in English. Likewise, mass media- FM radios, newspapers and online editions have accelerated towards the use of English. A number of journals, books and periodicals are produced in English. The professional organizations such as NELTA, GAN have been enhancing the use of English in Nepal. Even in government funded schools children start to study English right from the grade one. Many such schools are shifting their medium of instruction from Nepali to English. The middle and high class families of Nepal prefer to send their children in English medium schools to government funded schools, not because the public schools do not have good infrastructure, teaching staff, environment etc., but because of the medium of instruction. Whether or not we like the spread of English, it is spreading with its leaps and bounds all over the world.
The use of English has also created some questions. What types of English Nepal should adopt either American or British? Does Nepal develop the Nenglish? If we adopt American or British English certainly it will kill the local dialects and harm for indigenous lives and culture. Nenglish in Nepal is not possible to exercise because of the limited resources and small population. So in this situation English is not adopted as its American and British form in the context of Nepal. It is essential to advocate local varieties of English, because a language cannot be taught without properly knowing the account of socio-economic and cultural system of certain places. In one of the training sessions of NELTA, a professor from the west is taking a class about how to teach color to the deaf child. He pointed out that it is necessary to explain the activities of wedding ceremony to tell about the white color to the deaf child. But it is not suitable for the people of Hindu community because Hindu people wear red dress in the wedding ceremony. So the socio-cultural and geopolitical conditions should be considered for the excepted outcome of using English.
There are different varieties of English because of which the teacher also gets confused. An event of my life, I went to a school to apply for the post of a +2 level English teacher with my resume. I handed my resume to the principal and said, “This is my resume, sir”. He winced on his face as soon as he had a glimpse on it. He told to me, “You do not know how to write bio-data and I provide you a sample of it”. Our conversation broke down and I returned home from there feeling embarrassed. I had formed it in American format so he did not like it. It should be developed in British format for him. Recently my 10 years nephew, Anil, was angry and blamed me for that because I had recommended him to write color, center and sox instead of colour, centre and sock respectively. His English teacher crossed those words in red due to the incorrect spelling. I tried my best to convince him about the variation of English words but he never believes me. Now he never comes to learn English with me thinking that my English is faulty. There are variations of words in British and American English like cab or taxi, center or centre, organization or organisation, underground or subway, gas or petrol, fall or autumn, candy or sweets, cookies or biscuits, movies or film etc. If we ask questions to the professors of English about the difference between British, American, New Zealand and Australian English, they say that there is no difference in the use of those words. But when a student writes program instead of programme, do we accept? So, to my knowledge and understanding, English is itself a contradictory and deconstructive means because of its nature and variations. It is the symbol of western hegemony as mentioned by the Antonio Gramsci. So let’s leave English as English.