- Education and Science
Influx of English into the Vernacular - Tyranny or Convenience
At a local store, when I had made a purchase and paid for it, I said to the vendor ‘Thanks', to which he replied ‘Welcome'. Though the ‘Welcome' is not that usual, the ‘Thanks' is practically the norm.
In interactions with vendors and other public-service providers such as bus conductors, and even with strangers from whom one seeks help, one hears a lot English words - Sorry, Thanks, Temporary, Cheap, Costly, Bus-stop, Terminus, Time, Book, Watch, Gym, Cinema, and so on. Even those who have learnt no English at all regularly employ scores of English words, quite unconsciously and breezily and NOT to show off their knowledge of English. Of course, with the tech revolution, a whole new vocabulary has come into daily usage, the vernacular equivalent of which is non-existent. Mobile, Recharge, Validity, Free Incoming, Roaming and suchlike are part of common colloquy. When one finds ‘Validity' transliterated in Tamil, one doesn't know if it is comic or tragic.
I am talking about Chennai, the city of my residence. Metropolitan Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamilnadu - ‘Tamil' is the language most widely spoken in the state and ‘nadu' means ‘state'.
As in many countries, whether or not English should be the medium of instruction in schools and colleges has been and continues to be a hotly-contested issue in all the states in India. As one who has never been involved in the issue in a political sense, I have made the most of my exposure to the English language. Ever since I became conscious of my knowledge of the English language and my ability to use it in my personal and professional life, I have enjoyed it as a valuable possession, an asset that it is a joy to own, an asset that is of lasting value. If I had not known English, would I have desired to visit Europe and America and know people living in those continents? I have always loved to learn languages, for they are most intimate associations and images of people who are the original speakers. I deeply regretted not being able to speak any language of the Continent (The mainland of Europe) when I travelled in Europe, for if I had, I would have enjoyed my interactions with people many times more.
I have learnt German (8 semesters), in which I have a solid foundation, but owing to the fact that I have had little opportunity to practise it, I cannot speak it fluently, but I can improve any time. My learning German has considerably sharpened my ability for linguistic analysis and, in a sense, helped me improve my English. I am, therefore, sure that it makes sense for native speakers of English to know one or more additional languages, for it helps them achieve greater mastery of English, besides engendering in them an interest to know other cultures. Learning other languages is perhaps a big step towards true cosmopolitanism.
I know Tamil quite well, which is my mother tongue, and enough Hindi to converse, a language widely spoken in the western and northern regions of India.
But the language debate is very much on here as well as elsewhere. For a most absorbing exchange of views on the issue in Philippines, check out http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/06/17/the-english-language-debate-in-the-philippines/