[lg policy] English as a global language and its importance in Bangladesh

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Aug 28 11:35:27 EDT 2018

English as a global language and its importance in Bangladesh
English is likely to remain the most widespread language of the world, but
its future depends on the energy and enterprise of the people who speak it
[image: English as a global language and its importance in Bangladesh]

The English Language Education (ELE) system of Bangladesh has been
established backed by the guidelines of the NEP given that Bangladesh does
not have a language policy. The educators and advocates of the ELE in
Bangladesh give a number of arguments in favour of the compulsory provision
for the ELE in Bangladesh. They are i) English is a colonial inheritance,
ii) English is an international language, iii) English is a means for the
access to the global knowledge, and  iv) English is a means for the access
to the global job market.
However, these arguments are not enough to make the ELE obligatory in
Bangladesh. Because, the ELE as a system is required to be established and
run by based on a language planning in compliance with a language policy
underpinned by an appropriate ideology. Hence, Bangladesh needs a proper
framework for establishing an ELE system of its own. However, there are
certain frameworks in order to establish and run a system of education
under the administration of a government.
The extent and importance of the English language today are such as to make
it reasonable to ask whether we cannot attempt an intelligent speculation
as to the probable position, which it will occupy in the future. From a
language spoken only by a million and a half of people towards the close of
the eleventh century, it rose to be the language of five and a half million
by 1700. From eighteenth century onward, English began to spread outside of
England. And now it is spoken by men and women in the different parts of
the world. English is the second language in Europe (Russian being the
first from the point of view of numerical strength). Chinese and Russian
languages that rival the English language for the position of the world
language have one basic drawback. They are limited to particular blocks of
land-they are not scattered throughout the world. Moreover, they are
collections of many dialects which from the phonetic point of view are as
good as distinct which from the phonetic point of view are as good as
distinct languages. In this respect, English is more fortunate. It is
spoken by men and women scattered throughout the globe. It is the language
of America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The language
has spread to South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and
Malaysia. It is now spoken and written in African countries and even in
China and Russia. Thus in each continent, there are large numbers of people
who would plead for English as the world language.

There are certain liabilities, which prevent English from becoming the
accepted language of the world. The vast number of its synonyms and the
lack of correspondence between spelling and pronunciation stand in the way
of the foreigners to learn English quickly. In Asiatic and African
countries of England-American English, British English, Australian English,
Canadian English, and also Indian English.

It is, therefore, necessary that English should try to forge a Standard
English, which should be accepted by all. Potter rightly observes, “English
is likely to remain the most widespread language of the world, but its
future depends on the energy and enterprise of the people who speak it.” It
is time that the Britishers should accept the kinds of English spoken by
America or Australia or India. Today English language is not a monopoly of
the inhabitants of Britain, it belongs to all. It would be reasonable to
give parity of esteem to all educated forms of English speech.

Fortunately, there is solid core of common usage in all English-speaking
countries, which makes it possible to talk of standard world English. The
differences in vocabulary are not enormous; the differences in spelling are
negligible; differences in pronunciation can be accommodated. In formal
writing, the essential structure of the language is practically the same
throughout the English-speaking world. So the English speaking world should
not be fastidious about minor differences. In this respect, English has a
major role to fulfill. She should try to accelerate the progress of English
language in all fronts of life. There are forces working in favour of
English and these forces have to be strengthened. A joint drive by the
British Councils and the United States Information service can considerably
strengthen the forces and play a vital part in the emergence of English as
the common language of the world of tomorrow.

English cannot be dispensed with in free India. It is the international
language for communication among the peoples of the world. No country today
can remain isolated from the rest of the world. There are multilateral
trades, multidimensional cultures and multi-linear science and technology
through the interaction with different countries. Modern world has expanded
and intensified the exchange of ideas and thoughts among the nations.
Higher education is best imparted through the English language. England and
America are still the centres of modern researches in science, technology
and literature. The knowledge of English language would foster our
relationship with these countries and would help us imbibe the latest
thoughts and researches in science and humanities.

There is no reason why the students in Bangladesh should not learn English
from the primary age. A boy can learn two or three languages because a
boy’s mind is more receptive and more sensitive. One’s mother tongue should
be given the priority in the language group of studies, but English can be
studied as a second language. It would be harmful for the country if only a
few elitist schools teach English to their boy’s. This will lead to the
social and cultural disparity resulting in serious hindrances to the
progress of the country. All boys and girls would be given equal
opportunities of learning and each student would be allowed to make their
grade according to his merit. Poor students in village schools have the
potentialities to qualify themselves for good careers in administrations,
commerce and education, and they should be provided with opportunities and
ambience for the display of their merits and potentialities. English
learning at the primary level would prepare them for higher education and
would open up possibilities for their brilliant careers.

Economic backwardness, culture disparities have intensified the separatist
forces. We talk of common religion, common heritage, but these talks do not
go down much with the present generations. A common language and
educational facilities through the common language can mitigate this sense
of plurality, and generate the feeling of unity among us. Bengali alone
cannot serve this purpose, though it is internationally recognized. English
can be the link language among our different areas and at the same time can
link us with the outside world. To disown its importance and neglect its
use in India would be at our peril.

The writer is a columnist and researcher

forqan.info at gmail.com


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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