The Journey of English language from London to Lal Chowk

By Sahil Sharifdin Bhat

There is a huge craze for English language all over the valley . The people of Kashmir don’t take it just a language . Rather , they flaunt it like a precious jewellery . They use it to impress one another . They also use it to reprimand and express rage . When a kashmiri individual flares up , whether he has ever been to school or not , one will hear him shouting ”Who the hell are you ?” , ”Get lost ” , ” watch your mouth ” , ”nonsense ” etc . English language was born in England about fifteen centuries ago and it reached kashmir only a century ago . Although it reached the Valley late , yet the inhabitants of the valley are learning it at a terrific speed .
Human beings need to communicate with one another for numerous reasons and their means of communication is called language . There are approximately seven thousand languages spoken in the word today . Some languages have billions of speakers whereas others have a few thousand speakers only . The largest languages in the world , in terms of speakers , are Chinese , English , Spanish , Portuguese , Russian , French , Arabic , Hindustani , Japanese and Bengali. On the contrary , the largest languages of the world , in terms of entries in dictionaries [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 history books , our planet , the earth is 4.54 billion years old and the first human beings appeared on the earth only 300,000 years ago. They started speaking language about 50,000 – 150, 000 years ago whereas , they began to write around 3000 BCE . In other words , the speaking skill is thousands of years older than the writing skill . Languages keep appearing and disappearing . They are just like their speakers : they are born , they evolve , reach their climax , grow weaker and weaker and finally die . There is no guarantee that a language most popular today will not be non-existent in 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 English language in Kashmir as well as in the world but this language did not even exist fifteen centuries ago . Men come , rule for awhile and then they disappear. So do languages .
England is the motherland of English language that is spoken by about two billion people the world over . The nation that is called United Kingdom / England today was inhabited by a branch of Indo-Europeans called ‘Celts ‘ . The Celts settled in it in 6th/7th century BC and the language they spoke then was also called ‘ Celts’. Romans invaded Celts in 43 CE and ruled them till 410 CE . Since Romans spoke Latin , their language influenced Celts to some extent . Romans contributed a lot to art , culture , history , architecture and development of England. The city of London was built by Romans . When Romans left England , a few German tribes ( Angles , Saxons , Jutes ) were invited to England to help the people of England to fight against Vikings . Vikings were ruthless , cruel , barbaric and brutal people. During that period , different communities living on the land of England spoke different languages . They needed a common means of communication and that need gave birth to English language . They also followed different religions but they all were converted to Christianity in 597 CE . Thus, the people of England were united with a common language , English and with a common religion , Christianity . Later on, the reign of the German tribes ended with the Norman Conquest in 1066 CE and the time between 410 CE and 1066 CE is known as OLD ENGLISH PERIOD in history. The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 CE between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King , Harold Godwinson. The English army was defeated and William became the king of England . The army (Norman-French army ) was also German in origin . Long time back , a German tribe had settled in France at a place called ‘ Normandy ‘ . The same tribe grew into power and defeated the English army in 1066 CE . The conquest ended the old English period and incepted the middle English period in England . These Normans introduced feudal system in England and they spoke French and Latin . They added profusely to the vocabulary of English language , influenced its syntax and grammar and helped it to grow stronger . 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 modern English period started when the queen Elizabeth-I began to rule , William Shakespeare began to write plays and poetry , the king James version of the Bible was published and the reformative movement, Great Vowel Shift was started to reform the spelling, pronunciation etc of English language . Further , the Britishers began to rule the world and they spread English language all across the world through colonial and missionary activities. They took it to the USA , Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many smaller former British colonies such as India , Pakistan , parts of Africa , and elsewhere . Although the Britishers did not colonise the Valley of Kashmir directly , yet they came as missionaries and established hospitals, Churches and schools mostly in the vicinity of the main city of the valley known as Srinagar. Thus , English language was born and raised in England, journeyed with the East India company to India and arrived in the valley in the final quarter of the nineteenth century . The first English Medium school , Tyndale Biscoe School was opened by missionaries in 1876 CE at Lal chowk in the heart of Srinagar . J Hilton Knowles was the first principal of Tyndale Biscoe and he held the post from 1876 CE to 1880 CE . He also authored ‘ A dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs and sayings (1880) ‘ and ‘ Folk-tales of Kashmir (1893) ‘ . Furthermore , Sir Walter Roper Lawrence was appointed as the settlement Commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir between 1889 and 1894 , during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh and he penned down the book ‘ The Valley of Kashmir ‘ in 1895 CE , which is known as the first encyclopaedia of Kashmir written in English language . Another school where kashmiri people could attain modern education and learn English language was Saint Joseph school Baramulla established in 1903 . Among other famous English medium schools are : Mallinson Girls school [ Est 1912 ] , Presentation convent High school [ Est 1936 ] , Burn Hall [ Est 1956] , Muslim Educational institute pampore [1970] New Convent [1986] , Srinagar British school [1998] and Delhi Public school Srinagar [2003] . The truth is that modern education and English language reached kashmir in the final quarter of the nineteenth century with the efforts of Christian missionaries . They opened schools , hospitals and , of course , Churches in the valley , many of which are functional till date . There are approximately fifteen thousand schools across Jammu and Kashmir at present (year 2021). Moreover , the first college that was established in Kashmir was Sri Pratap college Srinagar . It was founded in 1905 CE by Dr Annie Basant . The same college was bifurcated into Amar Singh college Srinagar and Sri Pratap college Srinagar in 1942 CE . Thanks to God Almighty, there are over 66 colleges in the valley now (year 2021) . The first university of the valley of Kashmir is ‘ The kashmir University ‘ opened in 1948 . Its twin , ‘The Jammu University ‘ was opened in 1969 . The kashmir University has , at present , several campuses in various parts of the valley . Other universities that provide higher education at Kashmir are : SKUAST – Kashmir [ Est 1982] , IUST – Awantipora [2005] , Central University of kashmir [2009] , Cluster university Srinagar [2016] , NIT Srinagar [1960] , GMC Srinagar [1959 ] etc . There are over a dozen of Universities functional in Kashmir now . 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 male literacy then was 76.75%, while female literacy was 56.43% . According to an estimate , about 5% of the people of Kashmir are able to speak English language fluently and about 20% of them read and understand easily books and newspapers written in easy English language . There are 171 newspapers [ Dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies …] published in Jammu and Kashmir and most of them are published in English language . Among the nationally or internationally known kashmiri authors who write in english language are Aga Shahid Ali [ 1949-2001] , Hari Kunzru [ born in 1969 ], Basharat Pir [ born in 1977] , Mirza Waheed , shahnaz Bashir , shafi Ahmad , Nayeema Mehjoor , zooni Chopra and over a dozen others . Sincerely speaking, the first English Medium schools were opened in Kashmir by foreigners . They also wrote the first books in English language about kashmir. But , the people of Kashmir are now capable enough to write books in English language and run English medium schools .
Although the plant of English language was sown late in Kashmir , yet it is spreading its roots and branches around at an amazing pace . The day is not far when the books written by kashmiris in English language will be available in the international market , the kashmiri-English literature will be taken seriously all over the world and English language will be the largest language in the valley of Kashmir. No hurdle is high enough to discourage the efficient leopards of the valley to get their due . It does not matter how much late they start to run , they finish all races before all .
Email of the author : sahilsharifdinenglish@gmail.com