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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

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Volume 2018, Issue 253


English immersion and Bangla floatation? Rendering a collective choice private

Manabi Majumdar
  • Corresponding author
  • Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, R-1, Baishnabghata Patuli Township, Kolkata, India
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/ Rahul Mukhopadhyay
Published Online: 2018-08-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0024


This article aims to revisit the importance of nurturing reciprocal relationships of equality and enrichment between Bangla and English in the school life of children residing in the Indian state of West Bengal. We couple the descriptor “immersion” with English and “floatation” with Bangla to serve as metaphors for language ideology. After a brief review of the language in education policy in the country and in Bengal in both colonial and post-Independence periods, we draw on conversations with schoolteachers about the preference for English and the relative disregard for Bangla to present three basic arguments. First, there is no reason to be forced to choose between English and Bangla in Bengali education. There is even less reason – indeed, there are greater costs – to follow the policy of immersion in English and mere floatation in Bangla. Second, the equity-enhancing potential of “empowering people with English” may get neutralized if a disproportionate burden falls on the poor of purchasing minimal proficiency in English in schools providing “have-little” English. Third, unless English language training happens in the company of Bangla, children in schools of Bengal will lose a great opportunity to cultivate their freedom of self-expression.

Keywords: language of education; bilingual education; language policy; social equalization


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-08-19

Published in Print: 2018-08-28

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2018, Issue 253, Pages 79–102, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0024.

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