By Sunita Rajiv
It’s an unwritten expectation that a child studying in a public school is expected to converse fluently in English. This expectation gains dimensions with every passing year and the teachers take up this uphill task as a challenge. Workshops are organized, activities are designed, motivational lectures are given to teach the so called ‘second language’, which is successfully reigning as the accepted medium for more than five subjects. Still the goal is not achieved; it lures both the learner and the facilitator endlessly.
The student, caught in the horns of dilemma of ‘English or Hindi?’ finds himself jack of both and master of none. The mother speaks the mother tongue but insists he converses in English. The teachers stress on the usage of a language which is still an unconquered fort for them. Still when he musters up enough courage and ventures into this little familiar territory, he is laughed at by his peers who see him as a crow trying to pose a peacock. A stranger in both the worlds, he finds himself asking the meaning of a Hindi word [often seeking a synonym in English] and feels contented only if the English poem is explained to him in Hindi.
On being asked as to who would like to participate in the assembly, the answer is a question “Is the assembly in English or Hindi?”If the answer is the latter one, hands go down and the few who ‘dare’ are found being laughed at. Their acceptance is viewed more as their failure to master the Queen’s language than their proficiency in the mother tongue. Hence, they sheepishly fight their urge to remain steadfast in their decision, holding on to their self esteem as their pool of inspiration. It’s considered a matter of shame by most students that they should be considered ‘not – so –proficient ‘in English because respect can be commanded only by being the champions of English.
Another revelation— students have the English alphabet on their tips. On being asked the number, “twenty six” comes the pert reply. But ever try asking the Hindi alphabet. Neither the number nor the order can be recalled by any of them. The quizzical looks betray their ignorance on one hand and seem to doubt your intentions on the other.’ The Paradise Lost’ is not the lost knowledge of their mother tongue but the loss of respect and of willingness to learn the language. In our race to learn English, we have somehow developed a low opinion and esteem of our mother tongue and this gene has been passed on too, to the coming generations. A Japanese, a German or a Chinese never shirks away from expressing himself in his mother tongue, why do we?
What we need to understand is that language is a tool in our hands that enables us to express ourselves correctly, emphatically and impressively. Because all the technological tsunamis have originated from the west, doesn’t mean that we should lose the grip on our language and culture. Our aim should be to plant our feet steadfastly into our soil and strive for the stars. Our hearts are big enough to hold both Kalidas and Shakespeare in high esteem. Let’s understand that our success lies in excelling at both the languages with equal dedication.
If we have two eyes, we use both .If we have two hands, we use both. If we are blessed with two languages why can’t we be proficient in both? Language bridges the gaps between nations and hearts. If we take pride in our language and heritage, there is no reason why the children won’t follow our example. For if I can’t love my mother, how can I love someone else’s mother?