16 January 2011

Liberation Language ~ Essential Role For English

Maseeh Rahman writes in The Guardian that India's outcasts put faith in English...
"When India's prime minister Manmohan Singh recalled, during a lecture at Oxford University in 2005, the legacies that his country had inherited from British rule, he placed the English language and the education system above all others. This was a direct challenge to a century of nationalist rhetoric that had characterised the language of the British Raj as an "enslaving tool" imposed by colonisers. [...]"Without English, nothing is possible for us Dalits." The idea isn't new. It was propagated first by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a giant of India's early 20th-century freedom movement and chief architect of its constitution, who was himself an "untouchable". "Ambedkar compared English to the milk of the lioness, and said those who drink it become stronger," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, Dalit columnist, researcher and chief promoter of the pro-English campaign. "If your child learns English it's as if he or she has inherited 100 acres of land." D Shyam Babu, a Dalit scholar, agrees: "English is no longer just a language -- it's a skill. Without it you remain an unskilled labourer." This idea resonates today especially due to the association of English with India's technology boom, which is responsible for creating a new middle-class of software programmers."
Similarly, Martin Davidson writes in The Guardian that Sudan needs English to build bridges between North and South...
"The question that Sudan has been asking itself is, when faced with massive political upheaval, poverty and a shortage of basic of services, can English really make a difference? The answer, in short, is "yes". English language training is not a "quick fix" for Sudan's problems but it can encourage development, is relatively cheap and most importantly, sustainable, underpinning other capacity building projects. This is recognised at all levels of Sudanese society but is especially important in the South where the government views English as an important tool for development and future nation building. In the North, Arabic is and will remain the primary language, coexisting with English as the international language of the internet, trade and international engagement. In 2007 the government of South Sudan took English as their official language. English, however, provides a way for the North and South to communicate when Arabic is still viewed with suspicion by the South. If the country is to hold on to the fragile peace that has held for the last five years, it is supremely important that these communication channels stay open. In Sudan, there are currently three national armies and two police forces that the British Council is working with. When we asked them what their greatest need was, their responses were unanimous: "English."
And maybe, in due time, direct-translation Babelfish technologies will accelerate this even faster!

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