Language of Globalization

Thank you in sixteen languages - colorful sticky notes with handwriting on cork bulletin board

Globalization has a wide role to play worldwide. It has left back its footprints at every sphere of life. Not only in India, but the interchange of world views and ideas has resulted in a major transformation of the lifestyle and living standard of people globally. Indian culture is no bar to this transformation process. Our deep rooted traditions and customs have loosened up their hold with the emergence of globalization.

Globalization leaves no stone unturned. As current globalization seems to demand comprehensive transformation of a society, its impact on language and culture can be detected in every facet of life. The global economy has been influencing traditional values and ways of thinking for a long time. The concept of the global village has changed the outlook of future society.

Languages are the essential medium in which the ability to communicate across culture develops. Knowledge of one or several languages enables us to perceive new horizons, to think globally, and to increase our understanding of ourselves and of our neighbours. Languages are, then, the very lifeline of globalization: without language (or communication), there would be no globalization; and vice versa, without globalization, there would be no world languages.

Well, it will and certainly has affected the linguistic culture of India. We might come up with an example of how Sanskrit was overshadowed and how people grew less proficient in Sanskrit along the years. The main reason for that besides globalization is its dwindling usage. People switched to other Indian languages. A language is less sought after if it is not in use.

The biggest reverberation of globalization in languages is that people have learned foreign languages as an addition to their mother tongue. People living in urban areas do speak English in their offices but speak their mother tongue at home because that is what makes them remind of their culture and self-belonging. Besides, people living in rural areas speak very less English as compared to those living in urban areas.

Globalization is one of the reasons why there has been a proliferation of English medium schools in India since independence. Even today, many schools give a liberty of choosing French or German over Sanskrit. Now, is it correct or not is an entirely different issue altogether. As a result, the number of people speaking in English has increased with a period of time.

Due to globalization, English language emerged as a global force. As statistics say English language is the most widely spoken tongue in the world today. It is English language, however, a bigger impact on the world as a whole and has become the global de-facto standard used in business, cultural, political and linguistic exchange.

The English language has taken U-turn after globalization. The musing language has become an item of economic value. Due to Globalization the companies are using English language as a medium to sell their products across the globe. There are constant advertisements in print and electronic media English language sweeps all the advertisements.The parliament has also recognized English as an official language in addition to Hindi.

The effect of globalization on Indian Society is felt since 1990s. Gradually, Indians have started to feel the intensity of its effect now. The effect of globalization on economy, media and sometimes on society too are almost regularly analysed and debated in various fora. But, investigation into the effect of economic globalization on Indian languages dealing with their status, choice for use in various domains, use pattern, structure and functioning, development etc., are yet to be done.

In spite of their rich heritage, most of the Indian languages had hardly any official status or political power. Some languages such as Panjabi had to wage linguistic struggles to get the recognition and attention of the rulers. Earlier,all Indian languages were put together under one name, vernaculars.

Gradually, the domains of use for the Indian languages were expanding, and the mass media (the print media), had started to enter the homes of the literate sections of the linguistic community. Since literacy had slowly begun to spread and with the growth of Indian nationalism, people who spoke the dominant languages of the region/society generally opted for their own languages for the purpose of education, whereas the elites among them continued their preference for English. Since English was the language of official communication and judiciary, and since government was still the most important employer, English education continued to flourish.

So, as a consequence of this, after independence some of the leading languages have become official languages in various parts of the country, and English assumed the role of an associate official language of the Union.

Enormous language development activities took place in the case of Modern Indian Languages. Each language spread into new and different domains hitherto unknown to it or less explored. The existing domains of use steadily expanded. Speakers of the ‘regional languages’ started to establish their right over the use of that language in education, administration etc., and the speakers of the minor, minority, and other tribal languages started to establish their right as minority language speakers or as mother tongue speakers of their languages.

In the original scheme of language in education, the prime of place was for the mother tongue, regional language, Official language of the Union, and then English, generally in that order. Of late, since the process of globalization is set in motion, every state is competing to introduce English from the earliest stage of education. Committees and commissions, etc., constituted to deal with education are recommending the inclusion of English compulsorily in the educational process.

The relevance of, or dependence on English is reinforced with more vigor during globalization. English was accepted as the associate official language of the Union, since Hindi was not acceptable as the sole official language of India to one and all. English was found to be a neutral language, neutral to over sixteen hundred and fifty two mother tongues (Census of India: 1961). Though Hindi should have replaced English within a period of 15 years from 1950, even now it has not replaced it because people, both from the non-Hindi regions and the ruling classes in the Hindi states, do not seem to have the need for it. With the fast changing scenario of globalization, English also is fast becoming the language of globalization. It may not be possible to replace it with Hindi even after 150 years. Instead, actually English is displacing not only Hindi but also other languages in India.

Even the Indians are not very much in favour of promoting their mother tongue or our national language. Instead the youth today consider it to be a shameful condition to speak in their national language Hindi. The way the foreign languages are getting prevalent in India like the French, German and Spanish, right from the school level, is the example of how much we provide importance to Indian languages in comparison to the foreign ones.
. However, English as the language of industrialization and globalization will continue to dominate, despite the claims to the contrary. Only through a clear conscientization process matters relating to national identities, language use, and language identity and retention may be resolved. Since the ruling classes have embraced industrialization and globalization, there is only one possibility, that of hybridization of Indian languages and their use.The politicians in power have claimed that this change would help improve our performance in Indian languages and help establish these languages as languages of power even in our economic activities.

In the digital society that has a knowledge-based economy, all Indian languages are endangered, if they do not cope up with new language planning strategies. We do not think that liberalization, privatization, and globalization are going to provide any safe pedestrian crossings for Indian languages and for the users of Indian languages. It will not create or provide any equality of status and opportunities for these languages. Globalization actually expands and reinforces inequality among them.

We may have to have a second look at the status and functioning of Indian languages. The languages have to work out their own survival strategies. What we had in the era of independence is society-centred language planning. Now we will have an economy-centred language planning. It is necessary for the language planners to look at language issues from a different perspective like the economists looking at economic issues from a different angle. Both negative and positive policy options exist for language planning.

Thus, to conclude,we celebrate multilingualism and pluralism. We accepted it, and tried to preserve it. What we have to do now is to start practicing and promoting the same in all domains. With globalization, plurality is endangered. So, we should address ourselves to link economic growth to multilingualism and plurality, and take concerted steps towards that. We have to think about Indian languages in the international age from a global perspective.


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