Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fixing the Broken....

One comes across some interesting stuff on Facebook which one shares . Sometimes , these are quotes .   I came across this one , shared it, and was surprised at the many many "likes" that it continued to get, long after posting .

The comments often indicated the mind of the commenter.

To some, it was about perfection, grammar,  and acquiring an ability with a specified proficiency level.

To some others,  it was about  pulling down English Nazis a notch or so , in a world with so many other languages.

And to some others, it wasn't so much  about English, but about making fun of someone , or even abusing them,  sitting on their  pseudo lofty perch.

 This quote is by H. Jackson Brown , an author in the US,  and it made an appearance in the 90's when people there were averse to learning new languages , and refused to look beyond English. Very few bothered about the world outside America.  It was also a bit about being respectful of other cultures, and opening one's eyes to the world around.  (When I was studying in the US in the early seventies,  I was always asked how come my English was so good . And did I speak "Indian"  back home.  When they found I understood and spoke a bit of French , they couldn't believe it.  Although 2 years later a waiter on Champs Elysee did).......

In the middle of all this, we forget that language is a means of communication.   It may involve words, intonations, gestures and so on, but the idea is to get something useful across to another person.  You do not have to go abroad for this.  You can experience this in India,; why, in Mumbai itself, with its melting pot of people from all across India.

And if you can manage to convey whatever you wanted, you have been successful at communication. 

Broken English implies the existence of a perfect English.   The definition of "perfect" itself is hazy, because there is US English and UK English. And to tell the truth, there is actually an Indian English. Those who swear by Wren and Martin, and fancy pronunciation,  blithely ignore the fact that the US spells words pretty much the way it wants, ignoring the tenets of the Mother Language. It also makes variations in the way they use verbs, by introducing words like "gotten".  No one laughs at them or marks red lines through their written communication. Why ?  I guess power has something to do with it. 

And so making fun of those who speak broken languages, in this case, English, is more about the ability to look  down on someone from a position of power, or, in a sense, humiliate them. 

More trouble in this world has occurred because of the urge of  A to humiliate  B.

Because A and B are different.  Different in color, different in religion, different in social beliefs, different in intelligence, different in levels of prosperity, and different, even in interpretations of what each side might think is fun.

We in India are very adept at humiliating people. And the land.

On a social level, in India, we humiliate people as a show of power. It could be a boss at the office, it could be an in-law or husband in the home, it could be an appointed functionary in your school, it could even be the cops.  In rural India, humiliation is often colored by caste.  Those who purport to lead, often have innovative ways of publicising their ability to humiliate, like showing people tying their shoelaces for them as they stand  resplendent in so called power.  Humiliating the so called weaker sex, is justified  in the name of social custom.

The fear of humiliation amidst family on being unsuccessful in examinations is so huge, that today, it is a known psychological problem, being handled by trained counsellors.  Girls are humiliated for their looks, clothes and sometimes even for their independent thinking, and so on, often accompanied by forced disfiguring by throwing acid on faces.  Women are humiliated for their inability to beget sons,for their origin, for their size, for their color.

We humiliate our land  by throwing all kinds of dirt on it, often changing the nature of the soil. We humiliate our rivers, by soiling them with side products of industrial progress, and the dirt of humanity  , both in life and in death.  And we humiliate our mountains by not understanding why they stand the way they do, and by ravaging through them in the name of progress.  We humiliate our public transport by soiling it and stealing from it.

 We humiliate law as it exists, by following it in its breach.  We humiliate money by misusing it and degrading its value

So many of these things are local to our country.

The quotation above says "Never make fun of  anyone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language."

It is not really about language.   It is more about decent altruistic communication without running anyone down, and giving respect, and the fact that variety in humans exists.

And it is really about removing the word "humiliate" from your cerebral and social  dictionary.

Until then,   can A and B be friends ?


1 comment:

  1. I agree to some of the points you made here. We are all learners and imperfect so no one should really have a right to judge or humiliate a fellow being, be it for a language or any thing else.
    But I would also like to add that at times some people make no efforts at all to learn a certain language and still use it as if it were their mother tongue. I mean, if language is for communication why not use the one in which you can atleast properly put your point across?!