Catholic students, beware of fulminations against English!

Catholic students and educational institutions across India must make a conscious and concerted effort to learn English and teach English, because it is the most dominant ‘Catholic’ language in the world.

Catholic students, beware of fulminations against English!

By Joe Palathunkal
Now there is a sinister and systematic scheming to kill English but it comes in different guises and disguises, and worst still is the branding of English as anti-national by public figures who matter for young people. So Catholic students have to be aware of this dangerous trend which will ultimately destroy their future. Listen to that great man Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister: “English is important because it is the major window for us on the modern world. And we dare not close that window. If we close it, we imperil our future.”

Nehru was speaking on a Resolution moved by Frank Anthony, one of the towering Catholics in the Lok Sabha who wanted English to be included in the Schedule of the Constitution of India. Even then there were these self-anointed nationalists and patriots who wanted to define nationalism in terms of Hindi but Nehru’s prophetic vision and wisdom prevailed upon all the diatribes against English, and so today we have so many English medium schools across India.

Now from many quarters the opposition to English is mounting and some Catholic clergy also fall into the cultural nationalism trap. Recently I heard a Catholic priest apologizing to his Sunday congregation for speaking a few sentences in English during Mass and homily when I knew most of the people in the congregation understood English perfectly well and some even preferred it.

I feel perfectly at home when I attend an English Mass rather than the one in my own mother tongue. At home we have our evening Rosary, prayers and the Gospel reading in English and my children would find it very difficult to do this in their own mother tongue because they don’t know how to read it.

Above all, Catholic students must give importance to English because it is the richest language in terms of vocabulary, scientific terms, flexible grammar and expressiveness. That is why it is having a sway over the world. Since its beginning in 500 AD it continuously evolved taking into its body and soul millions of words from different roots and baptized them as English in such a way that the words have lost the colour of their original linguistic roots.

A language highly influenced by Latin and Greek, Catholic church had a telling influence on the development of English. It started with the Roman troops who invaded Britain and other parts of Europe, and brought with them many Latin terms which later became part of English. Besides, the Catholic missionaries played a crucial role in spreading English across the globe by opening educational institutions and seminaries which evolved into a hub of English.

Now within India, the parochial Rightists are trying their best to kill English by harping on to tradition and heritage. Young Catholics must be aware of it. When Catholic students develop a love for English, they are attuning themselves to a scientific and rational way of thinking which brings in a host of enlightening thoughts and ideas that will help you to ask the question why, a crucial aspect of human growth and social development.

Parochialists are harping on to the local languages because they are filled with thoughts and ideas which are against openness and universality. That makes you pliable instruments in their hands. That is why Jawaharlal Nehru warned: “…we have to remember we live in the modern scientific age. We must have a foreign language to serve as a window to the modern age.” No prime minister in India ever understood the importance of English as much as Nehru who was the most rational and scientific thinking prime minister we ever had.

He did not go around Europe and America speaking in Hindi nor took it as a matter of arrogant pride but he communicated in English because he wanted to keep the whole India and its people together, and he did meant it when he gave us the slogan ‘unity in diversity’.

Catholic students and educational institutions across India must make a conscious and concerted effort to learn English and teach English, because it is the most dominant ‘Catholic’ language in the world. No language can take its place however hard it may try because of the enormity of scientific and enlightening thoughts that English contains and therefore it is the most enlightening language in the world.

You need not get scared of English thinking it is the hardest language but actually it is the easiest and convenient language. With 26 letters English can manage everything while Indian languages have more than 50 letters which need to undergo mutilation to express many words.

So, Catholic students beware of all the fulminations against English, and learn this fantastic language with interest, the language of William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking and numerous Catholic saints and scholars who had it as the language of their heart. You too take it to your heart and insure your future!

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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