Wednesday, October 11, 2006

English vs. Malayalam

Let me begin with what got me writing on this topic.

At college, as part of our Communication Aids and Methods course, we were asked to do a public speech. The catch was... it was to be in MALAYALAM ! Now, the funniest part was most of us had problems doing that ! Surprising? Well, I do not think so. It is strange , isn't it?? Your 'mother tongue' is an alien to you and the 'supposed' foreign language ( I hate calling English that !!) is what you prefer.

And before I get into more of this, let me tell you one thing. I am not among the many people who are "proud" of the fact that they don't know Malayalam well, and say so haughtily. I was born and educated till my 4th in Dubai. Obviously, I missed out on the basics of Malayalam and had to learn from scratch over here. Needless to say, it was never my cup of tea. But I did quite well till high school, after which my main language was Hindi. But of course I speak Malayalam very well !
I always wished and desired that I could talk (as in for a PUBLIC SPEECH) and write in Malayalam & English with consummate ease. Like, perhaps, Kamala Das (a.k.a Kamala Suraiyya !). In fact, I believe that it is a great loss. I thus, have lost out on great writers and poets , and of course, their works. And I have , frankly, not been motivated to pick up and read a Malayalam book. Primarily because I feel that my understanding of the intricacies of the language is inadequate.

But the fact I'm trying to highlight is this : We must try to promote our mother-tongue as far as possible. What is happening is that most schools are working hard on improving the English of students. Fair enough. But it should never be at the expense of the mother-tongue. The Kannada-English row in Karnataka is ample proof of 'language politics' (that is of course, another issue in itself. Let's not detour !)
Coming back, parents, teachers and the umpteen number of "Spoken English" classes stress on, perhaps, getting a British, American or whatever diction ! But fail to realise that students hardly mouth their own language properly !

Basically, what I suggest is that there should be a fine balance in the education policies regarding languages... let's give equal preference to both the mother tongue and English. That way, no one misses out on the best of both worlds !

As for my speech, it went quite well...I escaped with minor bruises.

Apo shari. Pinne kaanam ! ha !

Thoughts for the day : "The limits of my language means the limits of my world."

"Language is the dress of thought."

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