Young Keralites’ inability to speak fluently in English will have serious repercussions when they enter a competitive job market, Union Minister for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor has said.
Dr. Tharoor explored the growth and recession of the language in the State over the past 50 years, at a function held on Tuesday to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of Kerala University’s English Department. He was inaugurating a programme ‘A Celebration with Letters,’ organised by the Institute of English and the Centre for Cultural Studies, at the Senate Chamber here.
The Union Minister said that even in the university, the comfort level with spoken English had gone down in these 50 years.
Over this period, throughout the country, there was an added emphasis on instructing in local languages, which slowly led to an alienation of the English language.
The exponential increase in the number of local language television channels in the past few decades resulted in Keralites further distancing themselves from English. “People are thinking more and more parochially,” said Dr. Tharoor. This even had political implications in the form of consolidation of regional parties.
He felt that this was ‘more than slightly worrying,’ as it rendered a very superficial nationalism.
The reality of globalisation too had to be factored in. It was no longer possible to think of a life confined in one’s own geographical and linguistic spaces. Educated persons had to relate to others from different backgrounds.
“Kerala cannot afford to live within a linguistic cocoon,” said Dr. Tharoor, adding that the State had a proud history of connecting so well with the rest of the world.
He hoped that the English Literature students, who studied the language in such depth, would usher in a revival of the language in Kerala.
In an interaction that followed, he spoke about the dangers of parochialism, particularly when it eclipsed international obligations. “Being secure in our own national identity is important, but it should not hinder exchange and open discussion with those beyond our borders,” he said.