Friday, June 29, 2007


Since the climate in Bangalore is drastically changing to winter, I decided to buy myself a jacket. I generally do not shop for hours together nor do I like shopping. In most cases, I buy from the first shop that I enter. However, in this case, the shop owner seemed to be rude and, as if taking revenge, I left his shop and entered his neighbour’s store. As they say, all for good. I got a better deal with lots of courtesy!

Anyway, so I was waiting for my payment to be processed when a mother came in with her son aged about seven to buy a raincoat. She conversed with the salesman in Kannada and told her requirements. The salesman got some raincoats for the kid. And then the kid started complaining to the mother about the offered raincoats, saying the length was incorrect, the color was too dark, etc.

But it was not the grouse that made me surprised. It was the kid’s language. The kid was talking in flawless English with an accent! A kid aged about seven, to its mother, in pure English, as if he was taught not to talk in any other language! And the mother too, it seemed, talked with her son only in English!

While enabling the children to speak in flawless English at a very early age surely adds an edge to the child’s career growth, and even makes other kids with lack of English speaking abilities cringe, I somehow am strongly of the opinion that English, to people whose mother tongue is not English, is just a means of communication in a common language, and is to be used only when the person to whom you are talking to does not understand the language that you actually speak, or is not comfortable.

Of course, to learn talking in a particular language, it makes sense for the student to have some days of the week in School where no other language is permitted to be spoken (as is how it is usually done in Swiss Chalet schools to learn French and other foreign languages). But to not speak a single syllable in one’s own language to one’s own mother in a general outing is for me, a great loss in terms of handing over the tradition of a beautiful language. One does not have to be an expert but at least one should talk with family members in one’s own language!

I wonder if it’s the same case in, for example, a German or a Spanish family. I mean, do the mother-kid conversations happen in English? I confess I am no good in Kannada either, but at least I make it a point to talk in Kannada with those who know Kannada! There are times when many non-Kannadiga friends of mine have asked particular translation which I have shamefully admitted I do not know. If this situation worsens in the future generations, a century later, the whole language will become extinct and the beauty and purity of the language will be buried forever.

There was a time when the English ruled us Indians. And then Indians got independence from the English. And now to compete in the global arena, the future generation is being enabled to be adept in the common language which is English. But if this happens at the cost of losing touch with one’s own originality and India’s diverse culture and language, then, I fear, the English is starting to rule us Indians again…literally.

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