It’s been months that I have had this thing rolling in my mind, I’ve even had long discussions and arguments with friends over this – why do Indians give so much importance to their English Vinglish. I am happy and kinda relieved that now with the movie released on a similar issue, I can write about the topic without being too critical and judgmental.
But before I begin, I want to say… this is NOT a ‘I Hate India, Please take me to the US’ post. I am very much an Indian supporter, the people with whom I’ve had discussions over this would know this more than anyone else. But, let me put it in writing – I love being in India and would prefer staying here for as long as possible!
In the last 1 year, I’ve met people from atleast 20-25 countries and have also heard them talking in their native languages. A lot of these people didn’t have a crisp English accent in. They couldn’t speak it fluently, leave away the accent. But, I have never seen people from France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Japan, China or any other country for that matter to be ashamed of themselves for this fact. I have never seen people from any country bowing down or not participating in a discussion just because their English is not as good as Americans. And yes, another thing I noticed, lot of people consider Brits just to be noble English speaking folks, Americans are the standard now!
But that’s not the point, the point is that a lot of Indians live under the enigma of whether to freely speak their native language (we have hundreds of them!) or to speak in broken English and thereby shaming themselves or to not speak at all? I believe being a quiet, introverted society, a lot of us go for the 3rd option of not speaking at all, it comes more naturally to us as compared to speaking in broken English. And I hope you get that I am not talking in absolutes and extremes here, not everyone but a lot of people you might be knowing are doing this unconsciously. No one judges another person by the fluency and accuracy with which he/she speaks a foreign language. But I see a lot lot of us have constructed a negative image around this which, in my opinion, is because of our subjugation in past over this language and people who used to speak it.
Colonial baggage of over a century is weighing us down till today and this is just one of the many ways it manifests. English is more than a language for us, till today, it is seen as the differentiating factor between the educated and uneducated, sophisticated and rowdy, rich and poor. Studying in Hindi medium schools is not even an option in cities today and kids who can’t speak English are mocked at by their friends. A lot of you would be thinking about the counter-argument that it is knowing English has helped us getting preference over Chinese for jobs in US, but that is not the point, I am talking about self-respect here. People in India know their own language pretty well right? but then how many of us talk in Hindi during conversations? There is a very strong invisible force that stops us from using our own language even when we are sure that the person in front would understand it perfectly. We still give preference to English, you can’t deny this! And why is that when your US based cousins used to speak broken Hindi, it’s cute and adorable but when you used to speak in broken English, it’s a matter of shame!
I understand that we are humble and smart enough to choose English, a universally accepted language, as the connecting language for a country with over a hundred native languages. But it pains me when I see mothers scolding their kids when they are talking in Hindi. How kids would see this is – speaking Hindi (or Tamil, or Telugu, or Bengali, or Gujrati or your language…) is bad and it is just a language of maids and servants. This is where we are making the whole cycle start again..
We should learn to embrace ourselves the way we are.. we may not realize it but a lot of people envy us, so I think there must be something apart from the cows on the streets that attracts them. Our Language is first thing that makes us Indian and we should not be ashamed of it, ever! So don’t be shy because your Indian accent waali English…. thik hai !
All that matters is your content, body language takes care of the rest. Our accent and pronunciations don’t really matter as much as we think we do. Don’t believe my word, here watch this video of Arunachalam Muruganantham, CEO, Jayaashree Industries. I was at DesignYatra, a design conference last month and this was the most inspiring keynote address, trust me on that. I’ve said what I had to say, go see the video now.