**Something I wanted to write since a long time.
Originally Posted On Candles Online
Can the knowledge of a particular language be the sign of intelligence of a person? Can the fluency in a particular language be an indication of one’s educational background and character certificate? Sounds gibberish, right?
Well not completely. This is just a reflection of how the attitude of people in Indian subcontinent has shaped up over decades now. Fanatic love for “English” is an IT thing (rather a HIT thing).
People getting mocked for not being able to converse in English at native level. People finding themselves to be in a fix, out of place, losing confidence, nurturing low self esteem and inferiority complex are direct of shoot offs of our fetish for one particular “International Language” English. We (A majority) somehow have come up with the terms that mastering this particular language is a ticket to a better treatment in masses ; a person who can speak English impeccably is a genius and if some accent is sprinkled he/she is already a star – knowledge, character, education, skill doesn’t really matter. Look at the wannabe insta stars, you will know what I mean .
Let me share few examples/ incidents that I came across or heard:
*I heard people praising someone who got expert skills in English “Kya angrezi bolta hai, wah!” (He speaks so good in English) never mind the grasp on subject matter is ZERO.
*My friend once shared with me his experience at his daughter’s school. The poor child faced the ire of the teachers because she wasn’t able to converse in a free flow manner in English and was comfortable in her mother tongue. Such a shame!
*If a person belonging to a foreign land (read West) speaks in any of our regional language though broken we go gaga over the attempt. “So Cute” is the expression that follows our excitement (not referring to Donald Trump saying Swamy Vivekanand ). But when the tables turn and someone among us try to speak the broken English we brand him “Illiterate” literally. What double standards!
*Parents insisting kids to speak in English (leave aside the schools) even at home (I strongly believe there are other circles/ places/ avenues where English can be practiced), it’s a matter of fame while on the other hand more and more parents are coming out saying “our kids can’t speak/ read/ write our mother tongue” almost without any sense of attachment. I am at loss of words!
*People refraining from talking in the language they are comfortable with just not to be jeered by peers. How sad!
Well I can go on and on with such illustrations not so great to put forward for any country / society. In short we are focussing on the mode/ language of instruction and completely ignoring the importance of effective communication or the content intended to be delivered.
Talking about our overtly attachment with this particular language, light must be thrown at helm of affairs in other parts of the world, countries which we see as synonyms for “Development, technology, power, economy” and every possible positive superlative. I live in Belgium, have been to France, Germany, Netherlands; Have heard the social speeches of public figures from Japan, China and the counties aforementioned. No one carries a chip of shame up their sleeve while talking in their respective mother tongue. On contrary they are proud. And this sense of pride is seen at every level. A public representative is not mocked by the citizens for his or her lack of grip on English. Preference is given to learning rather than belittling their own language (I have a friend who is a professional English language trainer working with bureaucrats, diplomats, parliamentarians etc. SP this is for you ❤) A complete inverse picture of what we see in the sub continent. We have this mind boggling equation, English = Knowledgable/ Educated. On the other hand mother tongue is given the utmost importance right from the beginning in all those countries mentioned above. Schools that lay foundation and aid development of a child from the grassroot level emphasise specifically on the country’s mother tongue. If you are a foreigner in these lands you got only two choices either integrate with them via their language or be ready to pay exhobirant charges for translation be it education (international schools are pretty expensive) in schools or otherwise. I myself have paid extra charges for translator service for driving test because of my incapacity to understand French fast 😁 . In a way they are promoting their language by using simple economics, period! Priority to the mother tongue is something we must learn from these countries.
Why? Language is a part of what and who we are. It’s an integral part of our history, heritage and culture. Precisely ROOTS! Can a tree stand still and upfront if it is alienated from the ground, if roots are uprooted? How meaningful it would be to have mastered a foreign language and yet not knowing the homeland? If we distance ourselves from our history there’s no way our future generations will know the past and future is definitely not bright.
I may sound as a fanatic talking over the clouds but a study is available that proves that for kids who start learning their and in their native language cognitive developments are better. Expression and communication comes easy to them. Better understanding of curriculum and positive attitude towards school are few more points to count. They feel more at home. This is just a bird’s eye view.
But unfortunately learning in native language may not be possible for everyone owing to the small social village world has become and constant migration of people from one place to another. It all comes to availability, feasibility and choice.
I want to reiterate that my argument is not against any language but the meaningless romanticism we have inbred within ourselves about a particular language belittling our own identity. I myself went to a school that had English as its medium of instruction but my teachers never made their students feel bad about their shortcomings in a language and most importantly my school had my mother tongue (Telugu) as one of the subjects and my parents wanted me to learn it. At home too we had an environment where we spoke to each other in our native language. For us English was just a language which we needed for a better exposure outside the safe cocoon of our home/ town/ country ( we were not aware or exposed to the other world languages at that time). English was (is & will be) required to excel in any competitive exam or other podiums. And we simply took it that way. Rather the entire emphasis was on developing thoughts, transformation of a person to personality, ethical behaviour, earning dignity and respect. In short the purpose of imparting education was fulfilled to the core. It was not washed down by a meaningless glorification of a foreign language because it is spoken by “Fair Skinned” (another obsession of my land sadly).
A petty request: I am not out of “Parenting Mode” since last week’s article was published 😉, excuse me for that and kindly bear with me. Parents please make sure that you encourage kids talking (the least) in native language. If you could impart the knowledge ( reading & writing) of native language nothing beats that. Remember their thoughts have to be eloquent and it’s never about which language they chose to communicate.
* Teachers: Please don’t shame any kid for their inability to converse in English. It’s just a language and can be worked upon. Debates, workshops, group activities, essay writings and lot more. Different tools and hard work can achieve everything including a grasp on the language but if the confidence gets shattered that might be something beyond repair.
* Schools / Authorities: Please focus on giving a buoyant support to the local language. Its a way to save our heritage and culture.
* Everyone: Learn as many languages as you can but remember your mother tongue is your inner feelings you share with your mother (loved/ closed ones), that comfort is the ultimate. And if Englishmen are speaking in English, it’s their own so nothing so great about that!
And here I rest my case.
*** Writing this post in English because it does have a mass reach and I am not against English but our shallow thinking process of trying to compare languages.