Linguistic hierarchy

I hope this letter finds space in your publication to shed light on the prevailing dominance of the English language and its im­plications for socio-economic dis­parities in Pakistan.

Although Pakistan has at least 250 major languages and Urdu is the national language, English is perceived as a superior language or ‘the passport to privilege.’ Be­ing the language of the colonial masters, English has maintained its dominance and privilege be­cause it is the language of higher education, the judiciary, large in­dustries, and all departments of the government and private sec­tors; in other words, English is essential to attain high-level cov­eted jobs.

In a post-colonial country like Pakistan, the English language is not only a symbol of status, but it is also a political and econom­ic tool to maintain the dominance of the privileged class. The prob­lem is that it is the elite class that has control over quality educa­tion. The privileged class has ac­cess to quality education at pri­vate English-medium schools, where they learn the second lan­guage and later join the dominant groups. On the other hand, those who fail to learn the dominant language are excluded from wid­er access to resources. In this re­gard, language operates as a tool for inclusion and exclusion in so­ciety, and the dominant status of English continues to grow for the elite community.

Considering the important posi­tion given to the English language in Pakistani society, middle-class parents aim to send their chil­dren to English-medium schools so they can become proficient in the English language and secure a brighter future.

Schools are important spac­es for the reproduction of cul­ture in society because they help shape how students act and think. Schools have a lot of control over students to enable them to fit into what society thinks is normal. Hence, the schools in Pakistan adopted English as a medium of communication, as the language has an edge over other regional and national languages.

Educationists and policymakers need to assess this value given to English that strengthens its posi­tion as a second language in Pak­istan. The country sees English as a symbolic power. Those who are proficient in English might be seen as more knowledgeable, giv­ing them an advantage in society, while others who don’t have this skill might face difficulties in cer­tain circles. The reason is not that English is inherently superior but the status of capital and symbol­ic power that has been arbitrarily assigned to it by society has made it seem like knowing the language warrants benefits to only the elite and the middle class of the society.



ePaper - Nawaiwaqt