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Influx of English into the Vernacular - Tyranny or Convenience

Updated on June 9, 2008
 

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/

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    • vaidy19 profile imageAUTHOR

      vaidy19 

      9 years ago from Chennai, India

      Yes, it is indeed difficult to find the time and the opportunity to improve on what little we know. For example, though my foundation in German is very good and I can read and understand even fairly complex text, my spoken German is rusty, because I have no one to converse with. I would love to visit Germany or Switzerland (again) and improve my conversational German. But then, it requires more than the effort - time and cash, to wit.

      Maybe, you should try sharing with us things related to Spanish and Latin. It might encourage you to spend more time with these languages and increase your skill.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Like G-Ma Johnson I also took Latin in High School. I have dabbled with learning Spanish but should expend more effort and become more proficient.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      vaidy19...Nice photo, I like it very much :o) 

       when in high school I learned Latin and have found it to be a langauge that you can figure out other's with.  I also am in the process of learning French...and it is fun....I of course speak English and honestly ONLY English.  I have relatives from Germany, Poland and Belguim but can't speak but a few words.  I should at least learn 'Thank You'.. (I have a stripped shirt just like that)

      Nice Hub and down to earth with being kind to everyone. You are a dear Man....G-Ma :o) hugs

    • vaidy19 profile imageAUTHOR

      vaidy19 

      10 years ago from Chennai, India

      Donna and Zsuzsy,

      Thanks. I am very happy that you are encouraging people to learn additional languages. Whether or not we are able to put it to professional use and make money, learning languages is in itself so much fun. It is also a way of showing that you recognize the greatness of other cultures and you are respected for that.

      Donna, it's never late to learn a new language. I am picking up some Italian now. The lessons are very interesting and presented well. You may check out http://freelearningitalian.com/

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Vaidy! I agree with you that any additional language helps with the learning of another. My native language is Hungarian. I grew up in Belgium near the German border therefore my basic education was in German. As of junior highschool I went to a school 50 miles further into the country where the Wallon French ruled. There also we had classes in Flemish. So when we came to Canada we learned English which I found to be a breeze....

      I loved your great hub regards Zsuzsy

    • donnaleemason profile image

      donnaleemason 

      10 years ago from North Dakota, USA

      I think that learning at least one other language in our multicultural world and wish that I had taken the time to learn more than medical Spanish when I had the opportunity. I am trying to get my children to learn Spanish too and will encourage them to try for as many as they can. Great hub.

      Donna

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