Last night I watched the Movie ‘English-Vinglish’ and it took me back to my school days, though the memories evoked strong yet mixed feelings. I come from a traditional tamil-brahmin family where we still speak a lot of Tamil- Thankfully. I went to an International school which I loved, and owe a lot to; but one thing that I wish would change in that school and many international and mainstream schools with a colonial hangover is the attitude towards The English language (specifically to people who cannot speak the English language very well). More than school managements it is an unwritten law that only children and parents who speak ‘good English’ are cool amongst some teachers and peers! God save a child who accepts that he/she speaks only their mother tongue at home! Now I am proud to say that I speak primarily in Tamil with my 2 year-old son, because he’s going to learn English anyway. Not for a moment do I debate the importance of English as an essential tool for communication, but it’s the self-deprecating, belittling attitude of many-an-Indian that we must join hands to change.
When I watched that movie, I realized that as a child growing up in cosmopolitan Bangalore even I have been guilty of laughing at, feeling a tad embarrassed and correcting my mother and grandmother when they didn’t speak this foreign language the way it was meant to be spoken (I know many of us are guilty of judging people by the way they speak English, which we should stop immediately). In fact my grandmother doesn’t speak English at all, and she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren who would only speak in English amongst themselves many-a-times. My heart goes out to the poor lady, who silently accepted her position, and probably even felt proud that her children were so fluent at the English Language (Though she would have yearned to be able to communicate better with them). As we bring up our children, whether we as parents can communicate in English or not, it is important to keep reminding them that this is a foreign language that is important to learn, but what’s more important is to see and appreciate the goodness in people (especially those who are closest to them).
As I type, I am still wondering how, as a parent I am going to teach my son that not speaking English in a perfect manner (What is perfect? There probably is no perfect anyway) needn’t be an embarrassment or a reason to rebuke. I urge every parent to happily teach their children their mother tongues and English, Sanskrit and maybe even Chinese, so we can celebrate India’s and the World’s diversity, instead of being embarrassed by our own languages. Let us take a cue from some first-world countries like Japan and Germany, which have achieved great technological advancements even without being able to communicate in the English Language. Communication transcends language barriers if we move from head to heart. Let us join hands to Make Living Fun for everyone because THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN ENGLISH!!!
About the Author:
Jayaram Rajaram is one of the Managing Partner’s of Bril, a company that works on a Mission to Make Living Fun for its customers and consumers, through its world-class school stationery, baby and children’s products. For more information about Bril please visit www.brilindia.com
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