English

K goes to one of the best play schools of Gurgaon. Last year when I was researching on play schools for her, someone suggested this school. The fee was on the higher side, but when I read about it realized that it would be a good school. I went there and all my doubts were clear. Everything about the school appeared very promising, and husband suggested that even if its on the higher side fee wise, we should not compromise on her education specially the early years and go for it. K started going to school in January this year. Now, most of the kids who come to this school speak in English. Mainly because I guess their parents also speak in English with them at home, so they are pretty comfortable with the language. Teachers there also use English as the primary medium of communication. Earlier I guess K had some problem, because she was not even 2 when she joined the school, but she picked up quickly and can easily understand and also make some very funny English sentences. I will write a separate post on her English…but here the topic which I want to highlight is something different. We are a Hindi speaking family, except when I speak to my colleagues on phone or I am talking to someone who does not understand Hindi do I resort to English. So for K its the school from where her major inputs for English come from. Now of-course, I speak to her in English when she initiates it, which is very often as she has this new craze of talking in English…:)

Her class teacher never said anything about her using Hindi, until one day when she had a replacement teacher, who saw me interacting with her in Hindi. She was quite shocked and said..”Oh she speaks in Hindi..”..and before I could react and say..”So what’s wrong with that..” she immediately realized her mistake…and corrected herself..and said something to undo the damage. But that kind of set me thinking. We in India are obsessed with this language. I am all for learning as many languages as one can and of-course, there is no escape from English as that is the global language now, but we Indians tend to take our seriousness towards English to a totally different level I feel. Hindi is my national and native language, and I would love my child to know it very well. So much that she can not only speak but also read good Hindi literature if she finds it of interest. Yes, she should learn other languages too, but I would really be disappointed if in her own country she is judged for speaking Hindi. I know she would learn English in due course of time, just like the way we did. I come from a English Medium school of a small town in UP, where the atmosphere was such, that when teacher imposed a fine of 50 paise on speaking one sentence in Hindi- kids would give 5 rs to the monitor to get a license of speaking 10 sentences in Hindi!! I do wish that had I been introduced to better teachers and books at an early age, my command on English would have been far superior. BUT, at the same time I am really proud of the fact that till some time back I could read Hindi literature with much ease. Now since I have not been reading much Hindi, my speed has kind of slowed down, but I remember reading complete Ramayana along with Uttar Ramayana when I was in class 2. Yes, I was quite fluent with my Hindi. I learnt English over time, and today I read English comfortably. I really like and respect people who have good command over any language, and that may or may not include English. But I think by and large, we are slowly becoming a set of people who admire English and English speaking people more, so much so that, sometimes we consider others less worthy or capable of a task which has nothing to do with English! I have seen that in my office. As part of my job I interact with people from US and Canada; many of them have their origins in non English speaking countries. Many of them have difficult to understand accents…but I have never seen any of their colleagues from those countries showing any kind of discomfort with their pronunciation or their ease with the language. We Indians, however are first to judge anyone who shows any signs of weak English. A friend one day was telling how the British and Americans consider it absolutely ok that many of the Indian in the IT industry mainly struggle with English. They know that this is our second language therefore our struggle with it is justified. They do not get impatient listening to us. Fellow Indians however have a different outlook. We are very quick to judge people, when it comes to language, specially in professional context. I have seen it happening myself. And I have a huge problem with that. In India all of us do not have equal opportunity to learn more than one language. Most of the so called English Medium schools are only for namesake. So  it is not easy for everyone to develop English skills while in school/ college . Most of the people get hold of it when they enter profession, and with time get comfortable with the language. More importantly, at most of the places we can very well do with our native language whatever it is. So speaking with the customer care executive of a radio cab service and shouting at him in English when they struggle to form even one sentence coherently is so not justified!

Language is actually a very beautiful entity and much more deeper than what we realise. Therefore forming biases and considering one inferior to the other and showing that in our actions is in my view sign of a not very wise mind.

I remember a dialogue from one of my favourite movies- “Chupke Chupke”- A character says in the end which means something like this- Any language is too great in itself to be disrespected. And I so agree with that. Learn as many languages as you can, but never consider any of them inferior to the other, nor consider people less worthy or less respectable on basis of what language they know and speak.

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