When the sahibs came to colonize India and much of South Asia and elsewhere, there was onus on learning English, the then numero uno language. Indeed the British made a well-demarcated distinction between those who felt comfortable in English and those who didn’t. The natives who could confabulate in English (some even better than them) and write well in that language ranked high in their scheme of things. The others were just ‘they’, the brown natives.
History has now turned a full circle. 300 years after the colonization and lot of water down the Thames later, the British are waking up to the importance of 3rd world languages. Among them are Bengali, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese.
If Alan Johnson, the British Secretary of State for Education, has his way, British schools will soon have the 3 languages as elective subjects for 11-14 year olds. The awakening is the result of recognizing 2 aspects.
One, Britain today has many multilingual immigrants than they had in the past, and it is important that students who wish to learn the languages have the choice to do so. This means Bengali, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese will join the ranks of French, German and Spanish as optional languages one of which must be learnt along with English.
The second reason has more to do with an eye on distant horizon. With India and China rapidly occupying the center-stage of rapid development, which will remain so for foreseeable future, there is an urgent need to have the pupils conversant in these languages if only to keep pace with the change taking place.
I’ve been looking at this article, British bosses choose foreign workers over lazy British, in which David Frost, the director general of a British business lobby group says it is troubling how British businesses are turning away from British workers. Here is how he elaborates:
It is troubling that so many businesses do not want to employ British workers. The UK’s chronic skills shortage must be addressed by the government and reform of the school curriculum is needed to ensure that young people enter the workforce with the necessary skills and the right attitude to get on at work.
Seems that not only the schools, even the British workplace is destined to see more changes in coming days. History does repeat, did you say!