TODAY -

English as a Lingua Franca for NE

Kamal Baruah *



The phenomenon of linguistic globalization has brought enormous changes that influence every aspect of our lives. The growth of English and the emergence of the internet have enabled instantaneous global communication nowadays. Thanks to the rise of social media and 4G data that allows the rapid cross-pollination of ideas and innovation.

In the information society of the globalized world, there is a pressing need for a common language of communication. People are becoming more and more serious about language learning in their highly networked professional world. The English language has turned into a widely accepted means of international communication and has become the Lingua Franca (ELF) in 21st century.

Interestingly English is a vernacular in United Kingdom but it is used as a lingua franca in Asian countries (Philippines and India). Similarly Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and French serve alike purpose in their countries. English is a Second Language (ESL) in European countries.

A Spaniard, a Frenchmen, and a German might carry on a conversation in English only. English is spoken by one in every four people worldwide (1.75 billion). It is almost 80 percent of non native English speakers in the world. It is the third most native language after Chinese and Spanish.

The British colonisation has led it possible to make English as world’s common language, the greatest gift to the world. British Council creates international opportunities for the people worldwide in educational opportunities and cultural relations.

English is becoming a core criterion in determining employability worldwide. It makes a significant contribution to sustainable global development in trade and business. IELTS (International English Language Testing System), the world most popular English test for higher education and global migration, is a must now to apply for a visa to stay in the UK.

India’s North East is not far behind. It is one of the most linguistically diverse states in India. English as a language of convenience is connected hundred languages of north eastern people. In comparison to area, it seems pretty good to have more than 25 English Newspapers circulations daily. An English news channel has recently been launched.

The biggest music festival at Shillong emerges as the rock capital of India. Tipriti Kharbangar of Soulmate, Lou Majow is just a few names. The world is dancing to the tunes of NE Bands at Alcheringa IIT Guwahati recently.

Ziro Music Festival, Orange Festival, Hornbill Festival are other important events. Its ubiquitous influence is felt by our young generation and NE culture is moving something of a renaissance.

Despite road infrastructure bottleneck coupled with misery and suffering across states, NE cities/towns have well nourished educational facilities at English as well as Vernaculars Schools. Our children have a right to a quality education that the constitution has given the fundamental right to every child on free and compulsory education or Right to Education Act (RTE).

Now they are able to bring a name in education, sports and cultural arena. Hundred of FM radio stations are transmitting from our land. Mizoram and Tripura are among the most literate states in our country.

Christianity plays a very important role among the daily life of Mizo community. I wonder how school goers can easily sing along in accompaniment with the tune of popular English album. The roman script is followed by many NE languages. Its only saving grace is the internet. All these ingredients helped us to adopt English as a common language in the North East.

“Content is King” the article was written by Bill Gates in 1996. He emphasized that long-term winners were those who delivered content based on information and entertainment. The huge vocabulary of English language is being influenced by French, Latin, Greek and Germanic languages (German and Dutch).

English has more words than most comparable world languages today. English is also very ready to accommodate foreign words and it shares grammar and basic vocabulary with other languages. Also English was a language of the ruling class Norman French and its Churches.

“Baidu” is Google’s counterpart in China. In spite of Chinese learn English to capture the world job market. So does Japanese for choosing English as international lingua franca in education. ESL industry is booming in China. Chinese parents cared for their children with an obsession to learning English. Is China the wild west of the teaching world?

Indian republic has been de facto divided into two states on the basic of language. Government is trying to impose and promote Hindi as Rashtra Bhasha. But South India and NE India won’t understand Hindi.

However, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language. Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English. Since Hindi failed to become pan India language, English slowly capitalise it.

Parents lose faith to vernacular schools even in the remotest area of NE states. More number of English medium private institutions is coming up to cater the demand in the market. Now, in the age of the Internet and supremacy of English, the future of other languages looks bleak to students.

Is the future of mother language at stake? Do they get little attention? And English have become de jure King of Global Lingua Franca (EGLF).


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a former Air Warrior and currently working for SBI Dispur. He can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on September 08 2019.



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