Sunday 21 July 2013

Required, Two Tongues

Since some public figures have been commenting against English recently, I am reposting my article on the subject.

English and Hindi have irreplaceable roles in national integration and ensuring progress

When I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court I would be invited by the High Court Bar Association on the occasion of Hindi Diwas, which was celebrated every year on September 14 in a function at the Bar Library. I would tell the office bearers of the bar association that I do not like to come to the function because what I say would create controversy. However, they would insist and plead that I come and speak.
At the functions many speakers would say Angrezi hatao, that is, abolish English from our country. Some would disparagingly describe English as a dasi (slave girl).


When my turn comes to speak I would tell the audience that if their children did not learn English they would only be fit to drive bullock carts (Hal chalane layak rah jayenge). I said I too loved Hindi, which is my mother tongue, but that did not mean I should behave like a fool. All knowledge in the world is in English. If one goes to an engineering college, all the books are in English; similarly all the books in a medical college are in English. If one wants to study history, economics, philosophy, science or literature, the books are all in English. How can one do without English? It is totally stupid to say Angrezi hatao, and only enemies of their children talk like that. In fact, we must spread English more for the country’s progress. At the same time, people in non-Hindi speaking States such as Tamil Nadu should learn Hindi, because it is the link language in our country. For instance, Tamilians face great difficulty when they come out of Tamil Nadu because they do not know Hindi.


When I met the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu some time back, I told her that Tamilians should learn Hindi as it is in their interest to do so. She told me that Tamilians had indeed been learning Hindi up to the 1960s, and Hindi was spreading in Tamil Nadu by Hindi films and Hindi Prachar Sabhas. But then some north Indians decided to impose Hindi on the south, creating a strong reaction and halting the learning of Hindi.
I told her it was wrong on the part of some north Indian politicians to try to impose Hindi in the south. This is the age of democracy, and nothing should be imposed. However, what has happened has happened, and now my appeal to the people of Tamil Nadu is that they should learn Hindi. Recently, I spoke to students of Anna University in Chennai and advised them to learn Hindi. I have received e-mails from some of the students saying they have started learning Hindi.
In my speech at Anna University, I recalled an instance when I was Chief Justice of Madras High Court and had been invited to a function in Gulbarga in north Karnataka. I flew from Chennai to Hyderabad, where I caught a taxi to Gulbarga. The professor of Gulbarga University who came to receive me was a Kannada speaker and the taxi driver was a Telugu speaker, but they spoke to each other in Hindi. I was surprised that two south Indians should speak to each other in Hindi. I asked the professor the reason. He said it was because Hindi was their link language. He did not know Telugu and the taxi driver did not know Kannada, but they both knew Hindi. This shows that Hindi is the link language in much of India. In fact, most people in non-Hindi regions like Punjab, Bengal, Kashmir, the North East, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, etc. can speak Hindi. In Pakistan, people speak Urdu which is very similar to Hindi. Thus, knowledge of Hindi makes it easy to communicate in much of the subcontinent.

 I appeal to all the people of India to learn Hindi and English. But nothing should be imposed.


  1. Sir,
    I am a tamilian. I have faced a problem while travelling in the North. I have bought books for learning hindi but never followed it up. Will do it sincerely from now on. Thank You for the reminder.
    -- Prashanth

  2. India is three language nation; Mother tongue, Hindi and English.
    I am Hindi speaker and know only two language Hindi and English.

  3. I stay in Tamilnadu and I think a huge drawback of this place is that most people don't know Hindi/English. Atleast one Link language is a must.

  4. Language is a means of expression and nothing else is relevant.

  5. ya true sir, Both the language are much important, for national integration as well as ensure progess.

  6. Excellent Article but you didn't talk about the depreciating Hindi Book , Articles and Quality of Hindi Media and Television which make Hindi synonymous to a language that is for (Perceived as)Middle Class(in my school they use to say HMT: hindi medium type)that is corroding our language which we love from our bottom of heart..

    In my views every one should atleast know Hindi so much that we could understand our National Anthem and National Song and keep our fables to our next generation.

  7. I agree that the ability to communicate effectively in both English and Hindi is vital for any individual to prosper in India. But there is another aspect to this language issue that is only discussed at a sentimental/emotional level without coming up with a rational solution.

    This issue is that of leaning one's regional language at the same time as leaning English and Hindi. And I mean just leaning to speak one's mother tongue at home but learning literature. Regional languages are core to every state's culture and we mustn't neglect them.

    The incorporation of regional language in schools is also sometimes met with opposition. Some argue that we are overburdening our childern with three languages while others worry that their children will never learn to read and/or write in their mother tongue.

    The key is to try and find a balance in the education system that allow our future generations to learn all relevant languages without overburdening our students or neglecting any language out of spite.

    This way, anyone who moves between states will survive with their knowledge of English and/or Hindi while domiciles can ensure that their language doesn't become extinct.

    This will automatically make the issue of language imposition a moot point.

  8. by two language formula, you are making all others, whose mother tong is not hindi, as second grade citizens. to have equal playing field.there should be only two language formula. mother tong and english.

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  10. Dear Sir
    I am currently working in Director of Accounts Postal Nagpur for the past 3 years. Fortunately I passed prathmick exam in Hindi, I am able to read hindi and under stand the spoken Hindi but unable to speak Hindi. The petty politics played by politicians spoiled the current generation. From VIII standard, it should be compulsory to learn Hindi and any one of the foreign languages like French, Latin, Japanese, German. It will great help to the student in future.

  11. Just as it is difficult for a predominantly Hindi speaking state, or states for that matter, to get comfortable with their everday use of a second language such as English, it is doubly difficult for a non Hindi speaking state or states, to learn both English and Hindi, let alone attain some sort of a fluency in English & Hindi.

    If learning additional languages become a flashpoint of political debate, then what is at stake is critical thinking & logic in schools. One could teach all the languages in the world in a school, but if a student lacks critical thinking, or worse still, if the schools do not expect critical thinking from their students, then what we have achieved is producing a number of linguists and not thinkers. What the country needs desperately is an inordinate number of thinkers more than anything else.