By Reeti Dutta
Our hangup with speaking perfect English dates back to being under the British Raj. Indians always felt inferior for not knowing how to speak good English.This inferiority complex got ingrained in our DNA and generations passed it on to the next generations, and are still doing so.
No other race is as conscious as us Indians are, about speaking in English, I think. Having said that, I have to disagree with the ones who like to put down people for speaking the English language. English is the international language and the most effective means of communication all over the world today. The sooner we accept it, the better for us. Knowing a foreign language can only be beneficial to us and English is a foreign language.
If learning a foreign language was a crime, then why take French, Spanish and Cantonese lessons and feel so upgraded?
Knowing and speaking another language only empowers us to know others better, to communicate better, further giving us an opportunity to explore another whole new world of literature, art and culture, and get enriched by the experience.
Would you have, as a kid, enjoyed Enid Blyton in a translated version, gone through life not knowing Keats, but quoting 'a thing of beauty is a joy for ever' or Shakespeare's 'to be or not to be' at the drop of a hat, shaking a leg to the Beatles or crooning along with Abba(they are Swedes, and yet!) and not swearing by 'Imagine you can say I m a dreamer, but I m not the only one!
Are we in any way suffering for knowing and speaking English?
I don't think so. The inferiority complex compels us to make fun, be sarcastic, and generally project a fake picture of misplaced patriotism.
(Yes, I consider it to be a matter of shame when we do not know how to read and write in our own mother tongue, or communicate in HINDI our national language, but puff up with pride because we can speak in English.)
But that is not premise enough to nullify others for enjoying and communicating in English. Our brothers from down south communicates with his brother in Delhi or Mumbai in English, so do we Northeasterners. Yeah, it may be 'Iinglis', but why did we choose a common language?
Does this make him or her or me less patriotic?
I don't think so...
We can boastfully say whatever we have to in our own tongue, whether when we are travelling abroad or when we have visitors; apply for jobs outside, or here; for that matter, and naively believe they can read my CV written in my mother tongue.
Watch subtitled English movies only
Be able to read the translated literature only.. (because we are patriots ...remember?)
Being able to speak fluently in any language (in this case English) is like our ability to make a good cup of tea.
Now, we can make a perfect cup of tea or we can botch it up...
Choice is ours....
We can make a public speech (as by one of our erstwhile first time chief ministers when he asked the nation to maintain 'communal harmonium')....
Fidget uncomfortably in our 'patriotic' shoes as the whole world will be watching and listening, or listen and enjoy the likes of Shashi Tharoor speaking in Oxford, and feel no less patriotic....
As I said, the choice is yours...
Its your cup of tea.