Chandra Bhan Prasad, a political activist from Northern part of India, has recently constructed a temple enshrining “Goddess English” in Bankagaon, near Lakhimpur in Utter Pradesh, India. The statue resembles the Statue of Liberty (but no crown; just a hat), carries a copy of the Indian constitution, and holds a fountain pen. Representing the unshaken belief by many Indians that English is a passport for good education, well respected and good paying jobs, and a modern outlook, no wonder the Goddess English stands on a personal computer. The temple will have symbols and formulae of chemistry, mathematics and physics engraved on the walls, and current plans are to build the staircase in the form of a computer keyboard replica.
India is a country with over 1,652 languages spoken by its 1.2 billion residents. Hindi is one of its two official languages, spoken by about 350 million people, and the primary language of North India. But about 300 to 350 million Indians speak English. Most linguists rank India as the largest English language user in the world.
Knowledge of English is one of the key factors in India’s new prosperity. You can feel the correlation between English language acceptance and personal income. India’s haves and have-nots are basically divided by their knowledge of the English language.
Do we see similar pattern in the border states of the United States? The USA, as a single language country, has been engulfed in multi-language education controversies, especially in California, Arizona and Texas. A very unacceptable high school dropout rate can be observed in school districts where English is not spoken well, and the per capita income of the non-English speaking Latino population is substantially lower than US median household income.
Is there a lesson to be learned?