It is ironical that I am writing this article in English, that you are reading it in English and that the morning newspaper you usually read is also in English. To further the discourse, it possible that, like me, you too study in English and watch mostly English entertainment channels. Doesn’t it make you tired of English? I get tired. What truly breaks the monotony is my mother tongue, Bangla. My household has this very stringent rule of speaking in Bangla so as to ensure continuance of the language. What disturbs me is the continuous usage or should I say over-usage of English in Indian households across the country.
Every time I travel through the country I witness parents talking to their children in English. It is a truly alarming facet because this is spelling the slow decline of the innumerable vernacular languages which are currently used in our country. Even if some households do not have a distinct language or dialect to speak at home, Hindi is always the language one can prefer to speak.
Our country seems to pride itself in being the largest English speaking country and it would not be wrong to say that it proved to be beneficial for us. But then, we should also evaluate the cost at which we are doing so. We have twenty-two Constitutionally recognised languages and about a hundred and seventy-seven dialects to boot yet we seem to run towards one alien language.
I have been to France and I have not seen the French ever really craving to learn English and wanting to forsake their own language. Their fashion industry is dependent on the world for business, but it is the world which has to learn their language to do business. Perhaps France could be excused since she has a long standing hostility towards English. But even the Germany, Spain or any other European country does not put emphasis on communicating in English. Yet in India, not only are we taught in English, we are also taught to look down upon Hindi and on the Hindi speaking clases. Further, the exact model of industry representation in mainland Europe is conveniently reversed in India. The very fact of impressing the foreigners leads us to speak in English.
If we have the goods, the foreigners will come to buy it without language posing as a hassle. Why can’t they learn Hindi? We take pride in the fact that Hindi is one of the widely spoken languages, but it is spoken only in India and amongst the Diaspora. On the other hand, Spanish and French is spoken the world over. Agreed they have been colonial powers, but the reach of their language is huge at this point when their world dominion is richly overshadowed. Ask an Indian teenager to converse in plain, every day Hindi and they will falter in the second sentence itself, while ask them converse in rich English they can go on a spree. Why is it so? With this hiccup we inundate foreign language classes being completely ignorant of our inability to converse in our national language.
Why is there a need to speak to our children in English when we have a perfectly beautiful language to converse in? Would the same really be happening in France? Why am I constantly comparing us to the West? It is because we constantly rally around our strengths to the west and evaluate our weakness with the strengths of the west. It is a never ending need not to be satisfied with what we have ourselves.
Why is it that parents need to constantly speak in English to their children? Why is it that they sideline the mother tongue with an unpleasant knock which sends a shudder in terms of the future of the languages? Every where it seems that English is taking over but what really bothers me is the value we place on it even at home. It is appalling at best.
It is time parents realise that English must be left at the corridors of the office and schools when one steps at home. Parents must make a conceited effort to speak in the vernacular language at home. It will bring about a sense of pride among the young and they will also marvel at their linguistic capacities. We are inundated with languages and it must be realised we ought to do our best at the home front to preserve them.
Sayan S. Das
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