The Three Phases of the Introduction of Bilingualism in English in India

Annika Hohenthal, Department of English, University of Turku, Finland

According to Kachru, there have been three phases in the introduction of bilingualism in English in India. The first one of them, the missionary phase, was initiated around 1614 by Christian missionaries. The second phase, the demand from the South Asian public (in the eighteenth century) was considered to come about through local demand, as some scholars were of the opinion that the spread of English was the result of the demand and willingness of local people to learn the language. There were prominent spokesmen for English. Kachru mentions two of them, Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833) and Rajunath Hari Navalkar (fl.1770). Roy and Navalkar, among others, were persuading the officials of the East India Company to give instruction in English, rather than in Sanskrit or Arabic. They thought that English would open the way for people to find out about scientific developments of the West. Knowledge of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic or of Indian vernaculars would not contribute to this goal (Kachru 1983: 67-68).

A letter of Raja Rammohun Roy addressed to Lord Amherst (1773-1857) from the year 1823 is often presented as evidence of local demand for English. Roy embraced European learning, and in his opinion, English provided Indians with "the key to all knowledge -- all the really useful knowledge which the world contains" (quoted in Bailey 1991: 136). In the letter Roy expresses his opinion that the available funds should be used for employing

European gentlemen of talent and education to instruct the natives of India in mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, and other useful sciences, which the natives of Europe have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of other parts of the world. [quoted in Kachru 1983: 68]

Roy's letter has been claimed to be responsible for starting the Oriental-Anglicist controversy, the controversy over which educational policy would be suitable for India. The third phase, the Government policy, begun in 1765, when the East India Company's authority was stabilized (Kachru 1983: 21-22). English was established firmly as the medium of instruction and administration. The English language became popular, because it opened paths to employment and influence (NEB 1974: 406). English of the subject Indians became gradually a widespread means of communication.

During the governor generalship Lord William Bentinck in the early nineteenth century, India saw many social reforms. English became the language of record of government and higher courts, and government support was given to the cultivation of Western learning and science through the medium of English. In this he was supported by Lord Macaulay (ibid, 403).

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