The English Language Journey from London to Lal Chowk – Kashmir Reader
There is a huge craze for the English language throughout the valley. The people of Kashmir not only regard it as a language but rather flaunt it as precious jewels. They use it to impress each other and also to reprimand and express rage. When a Kashmir is set ablaze, whether or not it has been to school before, it is heard shouting “Who the hell are you?” , “Get lost”, “watch your mouth”, “nonsense”, etc. The English language originated in England about fifteen centuries ago and it reached Kashmir only a century ago. Although he reached the valley late, the people of the valley are moving there with tremendous speed.
Human beings need to communicate with each other for many reasons and their medium is called language. There are approximately seven thousand languages spoken in the word today. Some languages have billions of speakers while others have only a few thousand. The largest languages in the world, in terms of speakers, are Chinese, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French, Arabic, Hindustani, Japanese, and Bengali. The world’s largest languages in terms of dictionary entries [vocabulary] are Korean, Portuguese, Finnish, Kurdish, Tamil, Swedish, Icelandic, English, Italian and Japanese.
Although it is possible to count the number of entries in a dictionary, it is not possible to count the number of words in a language. According to the history books, our planet Earth is 4.54 billion years old and the first human beings appeared on Earth only 300,000 years ago. They began speaking the language around 50,000 to 150,000 years ago when they began to write around 3000 BCE. In other words, oral proficiency is thousands of years older than written proficiency. Languages keep appearing and disappearing. They are like their speakers: they are born, evolve, reach their peak, weaken and eventually die. There is no guarantee that the most popular language today will not be non-existent in the next century. Sanskrit and Latin were spoken by millions of people only a few centuries ago, but unfortunately these languages are officially dead today. As stated above, there is a huge craze for the English language in Kashmir as well as in the world but this language did not even exist fifteen centuries ago. The men come, reign for a while, then disappear. Languages too.
England is the homeland of the English language which is spoken by around two billion people around the world. The nation that is now called United Kingdom / England was inhabited by a branch of Indo-Europeans called “Celts”. The Celts settled in the 6th / 7th century BC and the language they spoke then was also called “Celts”. The Romans invaded the Celts in 43 CE and ruled them until 410 CE. Since the Romans spoke Latin, their language influenced the Celts to some extent. The Romans made a great contribution to the art, culture, history, architecture and development of England. The city of London was built by the Romans. When the Romans left England, a few German tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) were invited to England to help the English people fight the Vikings. The Vikings were ruthless, cruel, barbaric and brutal people. During this period, different communities living in the land of England spoke different languages. They needed a common means of communication and this need gave birth to the English language. They also followed different religions, but they were all converted to Christianity in 597 CE. Thus, the English people were united with a common language, English, and a common religion, Christianity.
The reign of the German tribes later ended with the Norman Conquest in 1066 CE and the time between 410 CE and 1066 CE is known as the OLD ENGLISH PERIOD in history. The Battle of Hastings took place on October 14, 1066 CE between the Norman-French army of William, Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson. The English army is defeated and William becomes King of England. The army (Norman-French army) was also of German origin. A long time ago, a German tribe had settled in France at a place called ‘Normandy’. The same tribe seized power and defeated the English army in 1066 CE. The Conquest ended the Old English period and ushered in the Middle English period in England. These Normans introduced the feudal system to England and they spoke French and Latin. They have greatly enriched the vocabulary of the English language, influenced its syntax and grammar, and helped it strengthen.
In 1362 CE, English became the language of the English parliament. The time between 1066 CE and 15th century CE is known as the Middle English period in history. The period of Modern English began when Queen Elizabeth I began to reign and William Shakespeare began to write plays and poetry. The King James version of the Bible was published and the reform movement began. The Great Vowel Shift was launched to reform spelling, pronunciation, etc. of the English language. In addition, the British began to rule the world and they spread the English language around the world through colonial and missionary activities. They took him to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many smaller former British colonies such as India, Pakistan, parts of Africa and elsewhere.
Although the British did not directly colonize the Kashmir Valley, they nevertheless came as missionaries and established hospitals, churches and schools, mainly near the main town in the valley known as Srinagar. Thus, the English language was born and raised in England, traveled with the East India Company to India and arrived in the valley in the last quarter of the 19th century. The first English middle school, Tyndale Biscoe School, was opened by missionaries in 1876 CE at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar. J Hilton Knowles was Tyndale Biscoe’s first director and he held the post from 1876 to 1880. He is also the author of a “Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings” (1880) and “Kashmiri Folk Tales” “(1893). In addition, Sir Walter Roper Lawrence was appointed as a school commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir between 1889 and 1894 during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh and he wrote the book “The Valley of Kashmir” in 1895 CE, which is known as the first Kashmiri encyclopedia written in English.
Another school where Kashmiris could access a modern education and learn English was the Saint Joseph School of Baramulla, established in 1903. Other famous schools in English include the Mallinson Girls’ School. [Est 1912], Presentation Convent High School [Est 1936], Burn room [Est 1956], Pampore Muslim Educational Institute , New Convent , British School of Srinagar , and Delhi Srinagar Public School . There are around fifteen thousand schools across Jammu and Kashmir at present (year 2021). In addition, the first college established in Kashmir was Sri Pratap College Srinagar. It was founded in 1905 CE by Dr Annie Basant. The same college was divided into Amar Singh College Srinagar and Sri Pratap College Srinagar in 1942 CE. Thanks to Almighty God, there are now more than 66 colleges in the valley (year 2021). The first university in the Kashmir Valley is “University of Kashmir”, opened in 1948. Its twin, “Jammu University”, was opened in 1969. The University of Kashmir has, in the currently, several campuses in various parts of the valley. Other universities which provide higher education in Kashmir are SKUAST – Kashmir [Est 1982], IUST – Awantipora , Central University of Kashmir , Srinagar Cluster University , NIT Srinagar , GMC Srinagar , etc. There are now more than a dozen functioning universities in Kashmir. There must be many more schools, colleges and universities in Kashmir providing technical, vocational and advanced education to the youth of Kashmir.
According to the 2011 census, the literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir was 67.16%. The literacy of men was then 76.75%, while the literacy of women was 56.43%. According to one estimate, around 5% of the people of Kashmir are fluent in English and around 20% of them easily read and understand books and newspapers written in an easy English language. There are 171 logs [dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies] published in Jammu and Kashmir and most of them are published in English. Some nationally and internationally renowned Kashmiri authors who write in English include Aga Shahid Ali [1949-2001], Hari Kunzru [born 1969], Basharat Pir [born 1977], Mirza Waheed, Shahnaz Bashir, Shafi Ahmad, Nayeema Mehjoor, Zooni Chopra and more than a dozen others. Honestly speaking, the first English speaking schools were opened in Kashmir by foreigners. They were also the ones who wrote the first books in English on Kashmir. But the people of Kashmir are now sufficiently capable of writing books in English and running schools in English.
Although the English-speaking plant was sown late in Kashmir, it still spreads its roots and branches at an incredible rate. The day is not far off when the books written by Kashmiris in the English language will be available in the international market, Kashmiri-English literature will be taken seriously all over the world and the English language will be the biggest language in the valley of the Cashmere. No obstacle is high enough to deter the efficient leopards of the valley. It doesn’t matter how late they start to run; they finish all the races first.