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Monday, June 27, 2005

Ami Englisss bolte pari

Continuing from Jayesh's article at booletpoint with our fixation with English - so much so that parents ban their kids from talking in any other language. One of the main concerns with spread of English is that a large part of our population (esp. rural ones) will be left behind. But hold on- fixation with English is widespread. Last week, while I was giving my order in Hindi at a Sindhi restaurant to a very desi looking waiter, he kept on talking to me in very broken and funny English. The other day, a boy from the Pizza hut came asking for "broccoli" to our neighborhood vegetable seller. The duo failed to communicate with each other and after the Pizza boy left, we had a nice laugh.
Also the fixation with English is not limited to India. During my exchange program at Norway, I asked my Dutch roommate why he only listened to English, were there no good Dutch songs? He said it was difficult to sing or write song in Dutch, so that’s why.
However, transition from a rustic life to one equipped with English can be awkward like puberty. A bunch of freshers were asked in my engineering college " What do you call the hair in your groin in English". One guy proud to show off, answered "Public hair".
And of course no matter what, some things will always look and sound pretty odd if done in English - imagine Shaadi mantras in English, giving gaalis in English to the beggar who tapped on the glass of your Chevrolet, dancing Dandiya to English tunes, etc.
Those familiar with Chomsky's theory of universal grammar (that all languages have a common base, since a child can learn any language if exposed early to it) now wonder if it was actually English Grammar. The spread of English has undermined severely the Christian God's pursuit in the story of "The Tower of Babel". (as per the story, God created many languages so that men couldn't communicate with one another and would leave the city of Babel).
However, in the end, it’s all a matter of individual choice. If someone should be free to choose his belief system (religion) etc., he should also be free to choose his language. But should parents choose the language for kids? And as with everything else, I believe fixation with any particular idea can be risky. People who know a bit of Arab in the US can get such lucrative jobs in the post 9/11 world. Who knows, someday our own Hindi and Bengali will be the languages in demand and perhaps for the right reasons?


Thomas said...

I suppose English became the common language because of the English empire in the 19th century and the American empire in the 20th.

It's useful to have a common language. I like being able to read blogs from all over the world. But at the same time, I hate to see cultures lose their identities. I like it that India is India and Vietnam is Vietnam; I would hate for everything to become westernized.

(I speak English (being American) and French, and a little Vietnamese and Spanish.)

Dhiman said...


Dhiman said...

French at work and English at home – remark by Sauniere to Sophie in The Da Vinci Code serves an example of love for mother-tongue.

Those parents who insist their kids to talk in English only are overdoing it ( is it the effect of Emperial hang over ?). Ask any Indian youngster who is devouring Sidney Sheldon, Robin Cook, if he/she has read classically written books by Tagore (w/o loss of generality) or other Indian authors? The point is, are we just flowing with the wave – learn English, prove oneself smarter or are we going to be someone different, creative and independent? Shouldn’t we bear our own identity but at the same time know languages of others?

Why can’t we try to make Hindi or Bengali, the currency of modern day communication? Do we lack courage, willingness and confidence? English is just yet another language, nothing more. English people colonized, they did marketing and we adopted it. When will we do good marketing of our own things ? But I am hopeful, Oxford Dictionary has picked up words from Hindi, Punjabi such as chaddi (underwear), aunti-ji, uncle-ji, bahenchod, and so on.

In fact inability to speak French is making my life boring nowadays (hence for me France is not a land of machismo and womanizing yet). I wish our brain could load language program automatically when we encounter people speaking different language (much like reloading Matrix).

Know English but don’t look like a dumbfuck when your mom writes you letters in mother-tongue which you cannot read by yourself.