28 May 2010

Jaipur literature festival

Here's an interesting account of a discussion held at the Jaipur Literature Festival last January:

"The Queen’s Hinglish: Ira Pande, Mark Tully, Prasoon Joshi

"In a lively debate, the panel and audience discussed the nature and implications of the English language in India. Prasoon Joshi argued that schoolchildren who learn English in schools have an ‘unfair advantage’ because ‘language is politics.’ The issue of English language in India is more than a joke, he said, because it is affecting people’s lives and prospects, and therefore there should be a uniform language in the education system.

"Mark Tully said he thought a good policy suggestion would be for all children up to class 6 to be educated in their mother-tongue but also be taught some English, though he observed that there was the problem of a shortage of good English teachers, which meant many children ended up knowing neither mother tongue or English properly. One audience member argued that children in India were not learning ‘Queen’s English but President’s American.’ Ira Pande talked of the ‘element of fun’ in mixing the languages, as long as it is not about point scoring, and that was ‘all part of a language growing.’ Ira Pande asked what about call centre English, to which Joshi responded that was ‘a split personality.’ One audience member noted that the integration of African American language into American English was in part due to the vernacular permeating popular culture through literature and music. Joshi went on to say that Indians find it easy to co-exist in the modern world because historically they are so used to co-existing with others, that even if English were to become more prevalent a language in India because of the growing IT culture, that it would not lose its cultural distinction."

The element of fun is a good way of putting the joy of creation.  Writers have fun writing; otherwise, they would not write.  Mixing languages in one text is certainly fun; otherwise, no one would be doing it.  As Sigmund Freud observed in Der Dichter und das Phantasieren, writers are the only humans on earth who have seriously developed the childhood talent of daydreaming.

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