On revisiting Macaulay in the context of English Language Teaching in India today

The introduction of English in India is often believed to be the result of Macaulay’s infamous minutes written in a very straightforward and unambiguous language. Macaulay said, ‘We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern— a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to redefine the vernacular dialects in the country, “to enrich those dialects” with terms of science borrowed from the western nomenclature and to “render them by degrees fit vehicle” for conveying knowledge to the greater mass of the population.’
Macaulay was a colonial administrator bent on perpetuating the colonial rule. But an in depth study of the social perception of that period indicates that in some sense, Macaulay was simply echoing the sentiments of several Indian leaders of his time.
Justifying the introduction of English as the language of instruction for the Indians, Macaulay asserted that English was better worth knowing than Sanskrit or Arabic and the natives themselves were desirous to be taught English, and were not desirous to be taught Sanskrit or Arabic. He hoped that it was possible to make natives of this country thoroughly good English scholars and this conviction prompted him to suggest royal patronage for the propagation of English in India.
Macaulay’s observations in his highly objectionalbe Minutes offend our sensibility. Like my fellow countrymen, I too feel bad that a representative of the then ruling power should speak in such a derogatory manner. Macaulay might be a good administrator, but his use of language was not good. We studied English figures of speech like ‘simile’, ‘metaphor’ and ‘euphemism’ even during our school days. Didn’t he?
Anyway, I am intrigued by his argument when he says that the introduction of English will ‘enrich those dialects.’ While specifying the goals for a language curriculum in India, the Position Paper on English of the National Curriculum Framework prepared and published by NCERT, NewDelhi in 2006 suggests that the aim of English teaching is the creation of multilinguals who can ‘enrich all our languages.’ It is really intriguing to note that the rich languages of this country are yet to depend on English for their ‘enrichment.’ Macaulay believed that English would ‘enrich Indian dialects’, the Position Paper on English of NCF 2005 of India hopes that English knowing multilingual Indians will ‘enrich all our languages.’ One wonders if the striking similarity of perception is merely coincidental! Macaulay or no Macaulay, Indians need English.
Some people call English ‘India’s aunty tongue,’ but this tongue has taught me to convey my thought to the rest of the world. Many people have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with English. But this ‘love-hate’ relationship has taught me to establish a global relationship and I’m proud of it. Aren’t you?

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