On English in India

Writing this article in response to someone who made fun of someone else’s English on my Facebook post…..

I’ve been posting on this page regularly for many months and you might have noticed I believe in writing in simple, colloquial and easy to understand (hope I’m succeeding) language, and and am not really interested in impressing you with my long-windedness (ability to use complex language).

My aim as a writer is to reach out to as many people as I can and communicate my thoughts and ideas, again – don’t really have the ability nor am I interested in pleonasm (long-windedness)  😉

Am delighted that I’ve managed to get over one lakh followers, and that you all feel that I’m writing something worth reading. I’ve written earlier about Indian languages and how important it is for us to learn our own languages proficiently (to read, write and speak at least one). To follow up on what I preached I also started a Hindi page to spread my ideas in Hindi as well. However, due to lack of time, I’ve stopped posting on it for some time but hope to revive it soon.

I feel very disappointed about the second-class status that we seem to have accorded to our own languages and mother-tongues and neglect to learn them. Worse still, we grow very conceited about our own “English skills”, and make it a point to make fun of people who can’t speak impeccable English, notwithstanding the fact that it might not be their lack of ability but their lack of advantage that might be responsible for it.

Many of us are taught in our schools to be snobbish and look down on our fellowmen who can’t speak perfect English – probably something the British inculcated in us to instill their own sense of superiority, and we’re blindly following this nonsense even after 70 years of Independence 🙁 🙁

For example, my mother was a double gold medalist in her MBBS, and the topper in medical school as well, but her English speaking skills were quite poor till she moved to Bengaluru for work. This was the case because she studied in Telugu medium schools and also hardly got to speak English even during medical school (Guntur Medical College) because everyone spoke in Telugu in those days. In fact she tells me that the problem was quite reverse in Guntur.

There used to be considerable pride in speaking in one’s own mother tongue, and many peers would pick on you and say that you were “trying to act smart” if you spoke in English. So, one read all the text-books in English, but hardly got to speak English. Of course, she picked up after moving to Bengaluru, where more people spoke English.

Illustrated the above fact to show that it’s not lack of ability but lack of exposure and opportunity that might be impairing the English skills of many Indians. So, it’s very uncultured and not a sign of “class” to make fun of some fellow Indian’s English. There’s something inherently wrong in an education system that teaches you this crass kind of behavior.

I’m in no way suggesting that we should not learn English and replace it with local languages, we need to learn as many languages as we can and English is very important. But, don’t use your “perfect English” to intimidate a less fortunate fellowman.

Help them learn in an empathetic fashion, or learn to mind your own business. We humans are naturally multi-lingual, and have the ability to master many languages. It’s also healthier and better for you cognitively, to know as many languages as possible because every exposure makes your brain more efficient.

I’d like to end this by saying that not even everyone in England speaks perfect English (ask Professor Henry Higgins 🙂 ), so how can we expect Indians to do so?

Besides, languages are continuously evolving and the rules of grammar we stress over today are most likely to be obsolete a few centuries from now. For example, how many of us actually speak in Shakespearean English nowadays?? So go ahead and break the rules, and be proud of your progressive English 🙂 🙂


  2 comments for “On English in India

  1. Viney
    22 Apr 2018 at 2:42 am

    It is very correct Aparna

    • Aparna Rao
      22 Apr 2018 at 11:59 am

      Thank you! Have a nice evening! 🙂

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