Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Is English Really Important for a Career?

Ever since I landed in India in the year 2000, I've been wondering as to the over importance of English, especially in the context of career or getting a decent job in this anglophile country. I've noticed that English in India is viewed primarily as a door to career opportunities and not as a language and its stupendous literature. This is a very restricted approach to understanding a language, let alone appreciating it. Why do we put so much emphasis on English and see it only from a carer perspective? Are the students from vernaculars any way less than their so-called convent-educated peers? English may give a slight edge to an individual but it's not the be-all and end-all. In other words, it's not the alpha and omega of the vast career pool available in India.

 Even if one's not so good at English, it makes no difference to his/her personality and is never an obstacle to finding a job of one's choice. The most exasperating thing in India is to see English coaching centres claiming to develop one's overall personality as if English is bound up with smartness! This is fallacious and a psychological outcome of 1200 years of foreign rule beginning from 712 AD (when Muhammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh) to 1947, when the Brits left lock, stock and barrel. Indians forgot their own culture and heritage. It was the country's linguistic wealth that was mauled, mangled and maimed by the continuous foreign invasions. 

The enslaved Indian mentality began to think that the only way to gain social and career ascendancy was through English. Before that it was Persian. This is ridiculous. Students from Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and vernaculars can also break the glass ceiling and they've broken it a number of times. Yet we continue to deify English at the expense of Indian languages, particularly in the sphere of careers. Yours truly started learning English at the relatively ripe age of 16 and before that I knew only Persian and Arabic.

Even at Cambridge, no one cared for my very bad English because I was basically a student of Islamic theology which required profound knowledge of Persian and Arabic, which I had. Only after learning a smattering of English, did I pursue my M A in Occidental Philosophy. But here in India, we scrutinise aspirants' command over English even if he's applying for a job that requires no English! 

All said and done, more than the linguistically partial system still prevalent in India, the job seekers are also to be blamed for the perpetuation of this trend because they think themselves to be inferior to their English-knowing counterparts. They must realise that much more than the fluency in English, it's the positive attitude that gets them a job. Cofidence in one's abilities is far more important than mastery over English. A language is a mere facet of the mosaic of a person's persona. Any job is for the asking for a person of poise and integrity. Good or bad English doesn't figure here.

                                                        -Sumit Paul


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