The Story of English in India

By: N.Krishnaswamy and Lalitha
New Delhi, India: Foundation
Books Pvt.Ltd., Cambridge House
Pp vii+227

BR_story_of_englishBy: N.Krishnaswamy and Lalitha Krishnaswamy

New Delhi, India: Foundation, Books Pvt.Ltd., Cambridge House, 2006.

Pp vii+227

In The Story of English in India, Krishnaswamy and Krishnaswamy survey the complete panorama of the journey of English through the annals of India’s history. The survey runs through all the foreign influences on Indian culture, begins with the Aryans who came to India around the second millennium B.C. and ends at the globalisation phase of contemporary Indian society.

According to the authors, “The book outlines the growth and development of English in India, with a view to redefining the aims and goals of teaching English in post-independence India”. (p.v) It is divided into five chapters. The first chapter, titled ‘The Exploration and Transportation Phase’ traces the various foreign influences on India up to the year 1830. The beginning of English education in India is also painstakingly uncovered through the presentation of text from original documents of the British government. A strong point of this book is the timeline that follows each chapter and the list of references for every chapter. They certainly make the researcher’s task easier.

‘The Consolidation Phase: The Grand Design’, the second chapter is divided into eight sections and traces the growth of English in Education up to the year 1892.It gives a very detailed account of the two extremely important documents of the period: Macaulay’s Minute and Wood’s Dispatch.

The third chapter, ‘The Dissemination Phase’ describes the process whereby English became a second language in India; chronologically, it covers the period from 1893 – 1947. Chapter four – ‘The Identity Phase’- deals with the emotional struggle that Indian society faced after the departure of the British. The chapter continues the documentation of the conflict between the emotional ‘Angrezi Hatao’ (Remove English) brigade and the rational ‘English for development’ Group. There is a useful account of ELT in India up to the year 1990.

The concluding chapter ‘The Globalisation Phase’ discusses the dynamics of globalisation in the context of English in India. The last two chapters also give a useful description of Indian English.

The Story is definitely a volume of interest for ESL pedagogues and handles a vast array of historical material quite efficiently. In fact, the presentation of excerpts from original documents and comments from contemporary writers is the strength of this volume. But, as an ELT watcher one wishes the book paid more attention to ELT itself. In places, there is an attempt to address the concerns of ELT but the vast canvas somehow defeats the intention. Especially in the last chapter one wishes the discussion were less wide-ranging and more focused on specific issues.

* Article first published in FORTELL newsletter, issue no. 15

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