Language and Caste @ Link Wanderlust


I came across an interesting article pertaining to language and caste in India. Yogesh Maitreya talks about how language is what people make of it; it’s another tool that can be manipulated to further the ends of the privileged class. He uses R.S.Thomas’s poetry to illustrate his point. Thomas was Welsh and though he wrote in English, he disliked Anglicization. Maitreya explains that this is the same kind of situation he faced when he studied English Literature in college. What he was supposed to look up to was Brahminized English and he questioned himself eventually about what was accepted as the right pronunciation and the right usage. This dilemma extended itself to the vernacular as well.

“Language does not work by itself; language works through people. Therefore, looking at the history of English and India, Brahmins not only possessed the language but, over the years, became the dictators of it. This is an oppressively phenomenal situation for Dalits.”

Read My English Isn’t Broken; Your English Is Brahmin by Yogesh Maitreya.

This gif tells a similar tale, where instead of caste, the differences pertain to privilege.

english vinglish bollywood GIF

In the movie, ‘English Vinglish’, the protagonist is mocked by her daughter for not knowing English well enough. Even in the home, there is an ‘uneducated in English’ vs ‘educated in English’ dialectic. Knowing English and what is perceived as ‘correct’ English provides an unnecessary advantage.




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