Thursday, May 12, 2011

Foreign Lands and Langs

This post is long overdue. Written on my iPod during my short vacation this May, I haven’t had a chance to post it yet.

Once when a friend tried to (jokingly) impose on everyone the language Hindi saying that we must all respect our culture and refrain from speaking in English, I replied to him that I was a native English speaker and to me Hindi is a foreign language.

My mother tongue being Telugu have having lived by first 18 years in the same state (and the same city), I speak Telugu fluently and naturally speak only Telugu when I speak to strangers in my state. When I speak to people who do not belong to my state (either because I am out of it or because they are in it) I tend to speak in English in order to communicate. When I went to Jamshedpur in 2008, for that first time I had to speak Hindi. It was weird. Not because I didn’t speak very well (in my defense, the gender concept of inanimate objects is very confusing) but because I have never been to a place where I had to and it almost felt foreign. I thought it was only the lack of my experience.

On my short trip to the South East Asia our first stop was Singapore where people could communicate in two Indian languages: English and Tamil. Yet, most of us tended to speak in Hindi because we felt we were in a foreign country and hence must speak in a foreign language (here we does not include me). See how we (again not me) feel that English is very much our language (notice how I referred to it as an Indian language) and Hindi is a ‘foreign’ language?

This post is not to look down upon Hindi or to disrespect my Hindi speaking friends (who form a large percentage of my friends circle). This post is only to indicate to some of my friends who are ignorant enough to believe that the whole of India runs on Hindi and to some of my other friends who have recently left the country and suddenly found a new love for Hindi that no matter what language you used all your life, Hindi is indeed very foreign to many people in the country since it is not their mother tongue and neither is it a language of convenience.

And most importantly, the language you speak in does not matter as long as you are able to communicate. For example, (my mother might get upset to read this but she knows it well enough that) even though my mother tongue is Telugu, I m more fluent, write poetry, speak really fast especially when I am angry in English. Oh and did I forget, I actually think in English too. So as far as I am concerned, English is my native language, Telugu is my mother tongue and Hindi is the foreign language I am most comfortable in. To each her own!

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