Monday, August 17, 2015

Current Science on "English and Indian Science"

English and Indian Science
by Anantanarayanan Raman
Current Science, 10 August 2015, 109(3), 398.

I am in the process of reviewing a professional article submitted by three Indian scientists to an international biology journal. The science appears reasonable, but the pathetic aspect is the language used. Why none in India alone is not able to recognize is that presenting details in graceful and elegant language is half-of-the-well crossed. I am spending more time in correcting the prose rather than looking into the science of the submitted paper. Many sentences are grammatically flawed and clumsy, badly punctuated and meaninglessly wordy. The most annoying element is that the verbs are inappropriately conjugated, which made me highly irritable.
This is not the only occasion when I experienced this problem. For the students from the Indian subcontinent who have joined my research group, I am spending 4 h/week teaching basic grammar and simple ways of communicating in good English. What jolted me was when I asked them whether each has a copy of a standard dictionary and every one drew a blank. I urged them to purchase either a copy of the Macquarie or the Australian Oxford. The next step was to educate them how to use the dictionary and what help it can provide.
My above reactions are meant to say as loudly as possible that efforts need to be made in India in not losing a great gift – the English language – given by the British to us. We only talk of the ills caused and damages done to us by them before independence. We never want to recognize that we have an edge over the Chinese, who are the strongest competitors for us in every possible sphere of life, simply because we have a better hold on the English language than most Chinese. We need to factor here that the Chinese are making a sincere effort to master the English language by recruiting native speakers of English. A systematic effort is being made by Indian politicians in downplaying the importance of English language and consequently we are losing the capacity to communicate clearly, precisely and effectively. The paradox is that India is the land, which prided with writers and speakers of class such as R. K. Narayan and A. K. Ramanujan in recent years, and V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, C. Rajagopalachari and J. Nehru in the recent past. Evolution of the English language has gone to an extent to recognize a subgenre, the Indian English, which was pioneered by Vidiadhar Naipaul from Trinidad.
How did this fall come about? Why are we losing a highly useful skill, which has been there with us for long? What is going wrong? I have no answers. I am nonplussed.

Dr. Anantanarayanan Raman, Charles Sturt University, Australia. araman[at]

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