• Voice Of The People
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 16, 2018-

Introducing English as a second official language may be conducive to business and help Nepali youth compete in the International job market. One could even argue that it might contribute to settling disputes over Nepali being the sole official language, particularly when thinking about the Tarai region (‘Shunning English’, February 13, Page 6). But there are also downsides to giving English an elevated position in Nepal. In the 18th century, the intelligentsia and aristocracy of Germany had imbibed French scholars’ writings to such levels that denigrating their own language, German, became the norm. French was deemed the language of the enlightened whereas German was the language of the uncultured and downtrodden, e.g. that of the peasantry. But over time, these masses grew wary of the arrogance emanating from the upper echelons of society, ultimately resulting in a backlash and later vicious forms of cultural revivalism. In today’s India, we are witnessing a similar cultural backlash against elites that allegedly only speak English and have been telling people what is wrong and right. History, it is being said, does not repeat itself, so we cannot say what the recent events in India will amount to. What we can derive from such examples certainly is that extreme inequality coupled with an elite wrapping potentially lopsided development invocations in a foreign language generally isn’t well-received—mildly put, that is. So, arbitrarily exposing ill-prepared Nepali citizens to the game of endless competition with the West by way of making English a second official language may pose significant risks as ever more people would feel excluded from economic advancement. Of course, complete isolation and protectionism isn’t the solution either. If the rest of the population is able to catch up in some way with those currently spearheading the economy, an attempt at introducing English as an additional official language may be contemplated. Bearing in mind the current stark inequality, particularly in education, providing the necessary improvements in infrastructure for learning should be the government’s first priority. 

John Hildebrand, 

Heidelberg, Germany

Published: 16-02-2018 08:28

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