Sunday, September 5, 2010

English - The obsession

AM IN BENCH and that obviously implies that am idle right now. Hence for all of you guys who are very busy and stumbled onto my blog by mistake, my advice/warning/disclaimer is better get back to your important things, because the following scribbling is just an outcome of “utmost boredom combined with extreme idleness and a desperate measure to while away time”. In short Vetty. Pardon me, I tried all means to while away time. Take frequent coffee breaks, read newspaper, chit-chat with friends, long luncheon interval…. Yeah of course some work when mood permits. Nothing worked out. Hence I had to take this drastic step of scribbling whatever comes to my mind and share the same in this forum so that the torture can be passed onto the readers (if any). For people who had dared to read upto this line, I repeat my warning, I cannot be held responsible if you feel that this entire article is one trash and that it wasted your precious time. If still you are generous enough (or jobless enough !!) please proceed at your own risk !!!!!!!!!

What is the count of the number of occasions when you had forcefully conversed in English with a person(s) who very well understands your local language ?

How many of you choose the option TAMIL (or your mother tongue) when initiating a call with a customer service of a bank or mobile service provider etc. (My guess is most of us choose ENGLISH to initiate our query)

I don’t know whether the above are correct examples to correlate. But the point which am trying to convey is that more often than not, we tend to impose ourselves with the usage of the language English eventhough it is uncalled-for. The general tendency is we expect a respectful response from the other side when we speak in English rather than in our local language (which is unfortunately true at times). I deliberately make it a practice to place my order in Tamil when visiting the likes of Amethist, Pizza hut, Coffee day etc or any big hotel where the waiter always converses with us in English and occasionally I do get a weird look or probably a lesser treatment when I continue my conversations with him in Tamil (by lesser treatment I mean, being served food as if it's a charity done by him to me or being looked upon as a person who is from remote village visiting the city first time). The same scene gets replicated either in an Airport or at a Private Bank premises etc.

Why is that the treatment varies when the language used is English ? How many times have you looked down upon a person or jumped to a conclusion that he is not upto your level just because the guy doesn’t match your English speaking abilities. How many of us treat English speaking ability as a measure to judge a person ? Our jaws drop when we hear someone addressing us in one fluent, accent-filled English gyan. The first impression created on our mind is ‘This fellow must be really a highly educated guy”. Similarly we often hear people saying “This guy doesn't even know how to converse fluently in English, write mails in English but he is a Manager. How undeserving !!”. Has English speaking ability got anything to do with a person’s managing capabilities ??

The main reasons for the above behaviours are

• Either blatantly or somewhere in the corner of the mind, people have the misconception that “Being proficient in English = Being Educated/Civilised”. It is misconstrued that people who are fluent in English are highly intellectual, brainy goose, oozing with IQ (pardon my sarcasm)

• A feeling of "Unless we speak in English people won’t respect us"

Only with regard to English usage do we see such weird behaviours. There is one category of people who force themselves onto speaking English in a public forum just because they don’t want to feel let-down in front of people who speak fluent English.. For some, speaking in English is a style-statement, a way of exhibiting themselves. And there are these bunch of people who have an inferiority complex because they are not able to match up with their peers when it comes to speaking in English. Lastly there are these unfortunate jokes who think that the ratio of speaking in English is directly proportionate to the respect they gain. Majority of these comics are generally from the younger lots. Thankfully with age, people get matured and understand the rational approach to things

Why such frenziness over a mere language. Why so much of gloss and glitter given to one language speaking capacity. Does anyone ever feel proud and say "I have immense Tamil speaking ability, I can fluently talk Tamil" or does anyone derive immense pleasure when they are fluent in one of their neighbouring state languages. Then why is that pride and pleasure come into picture only when it is English language. Is it because of our inherent trait of always keeping things on top of our head and dancing for anything that is foreign and treating it as superior (not knowing the values of things that are available right under our nose). Foreign job, foreign travel, foreign merchandise, foreign bridegroom……… Whatever might be the stupid reason behind all the above madness, obsession whatever you call it, let’s remind ourselves the below basic things (the post is turning out to be too lengthy, hence had to abruptly cutshort and bring to one conclusion !!)

• At the end of the day, like anyother language, English is also a means of communication only. Being proficient in it doesn’t warranty intellect, similarly not-so-fluent doesn’t imply being dumb.

• Never judge people by their English speaking abilities (or the lack of it). Being proficient in English has a lot to do with our family background, the way we are brought up, the exposure towards the language etc. It has nothing to do with a person’s capacity to fulfill tasks.

• Don’t force yourself to speak in English thinking “If I talk in local language he/she might not give proper response or respect me”. You gain respect for what you are, not for what language you speak.

• Whatever be the forum, don’t feel ashamed or hesitant to converse in the local language with a person who understands the same. The important thing about a communication between two parties is that both should be in sync with what is told and what is listened. If that can be achieved conveniently by the local language, why to resort to an uncomfortable means. Even if it’s a corporate environment, an official conversation between a superior and the subordinates or training sessions need not always be in English. Opting to use local language doesn’t imply spoiling the decorum of the context or sounding odd. Its just a matter of whether the entire audience understands and is comfortable about the language that is being used.

• Using local language with superiors and peers in office doesn’t mean we are informal or casual. It is our approach that defines whether we are formal or informal, not the language.

I understand that it has turned out to be one dragging, lengthy gyan. It was not intended to be a anti-English or a pro-Tamil preach. As quoted earlier, it was just a time-killing exercise. For poor readers (if any) who had managed to go through the entire junk, I appreciate your patience.


Sri Kumar J


தமிழ் விரும்பி said...

I totally agree - oops sorry.
un karuthai amodhikkiren.

Sumathy PRS said...