‘English is a funny language’, this is an oft-repeated quote whenever my daughters study English with me. As a matter of fact, there is nothing funny about the language. It is just that the English language transcends logic and common sense when it comes to pronunciation, spellings, grammar and whatnot. This makes me propose that Indian English should be taught to Indian children.
I suppose all of us have learnt our English in schools. At that age, we would not have been able to ponder over the absurdities of what we are being taught by our English teachers. And, the teachers are in the profession of teaching what they are taught to teach. So, the saga of the Queen’s English keeps perpetuating, no matter how silly and ridiculous.
The Unscientific Language
How does one teach English to Indian children? LSRW is all hogwash. Except for an extremely tiny minority, children do not get to listen and speak English as their first step to learning this language. So, the phonetics makes an entry with alphabet identification, writing and reading, in that order. So far, so good. Now, slowly the eccentricities of the Queen’s English will start showing its tentacles.
The pronunciation of “C” will keep changing as per the whim and fancy. “G” will follow suit immediately. “I” and “E” are enough to drive a sane person crazy. “Y” and “O” decide to join the fun. Try teaching the spelling of “Two”, “To”, “Too” / “Four”, “For” scientifically to the child. How about “One” or “Eight” for that matter? We haven’t even reached the silent alphabets, homonyms, “Cough/Dough” etc.
You will say that English is not a 100% phonetic language. Everyone knows it. What’s the big deal? Well, it is not a big deal as an adult. Try telling it to children – Indian children. Our mother tongues i.e. Indian languages are all nearly 100% phonetic (most letters are consistently pronounced). Comparatively, English is only about 75% phonetic.
Why should Indian children be subjected to the strange and senseless way of learning a language in their growing years? Why cannot we make it simple and easy for Indian children to learn English by just following the phonetics? Speak and read as is written, and write as is spoken and read.
This is the big deal.
Adapt and Adopt Indian English
The educationists and prudes will scoff at the idea of any changes in Queen’s English. First and foremost, they will claim that there is no need to change. It will be termed as an un-wise and un-called for. It will be said that any change in English will be detrimental to the prospects of Indians, as we will end up being the only ones with the changed pronunciations, spellings, grammar etc.
Today, who would be the largest mass of people using English globally? We, Indians. If we are the biggest users, why cannot we make it to our liking and preferences? There is, at least, one more version of English doing the rounds – there is English (UK) and there is English (American). Why cannot we have English (Indian)?
We use every kind of Hinglish words while speaking. All sort of spellings and short forms are a part and parcel of our social media communications. But, when it comes to teaching to our children, we bow our heads to Queen’s English. Why should that be?
How many Indian children are going to read classical literature of the variety written by English-born writers? If Indian children go abroad for further education or work in call-centres, the only two instances wherein the Queen’s English might be required, they are more than capable of learning the different version.
The only issue to Indianizing English is that each region of India will claim to have its own pronunciation, spelling and grammar rules. To be honest, even this is fine. India is a diverse country and each region should have a say in what is taught to their children. The Indian educationists can put up a broad list of changes within which each region can pick and choose.
Focus On Indian Children
As an adult, we accept and live by the norms and the traditions that we are taught in our childhood. We do not question the practice and the routine assuming that this is how things happened in the past, take place in the present and will keep occurring in future. There is no need to suspect or mistrust the obvious. Our needless and foolish deference to British English falls in this category.
It is a hellish experience for Indian children to learn English in its current format. Simply put, it is stupid. Teaching Indian English will make the lives of our children easy and learning enjoyable. Plural of a ship is ships, but the plural of sheep is sheep. There is no fun in telling a child that English is a funny language.
The sooner we have Indian English, better for Indian children, better for India.
What would be your views on this subject?
Please do not start the primary education in mother tongue debate; it is even a bigger disservice to Indian children.
PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.