Do you hesitate to write in the English language? Do you not feel the confidence in your voice because of lack of knowing English? If yes, then I have something to share with you. What is the meaning of ‘Language’? According to Google, “Language is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way”. “Method of human communication”, if this is what language means, then how can anyone make any language a matter of pride?
I was in the US and met one very gentle lady who used to speak only Vietnamese. She had two beautiful daughters and a son. In a particular situation, it happened that we started meeting quite often. Her children were adorable and I started enjoying their company a lot. We used to spend a lot of time together but most of the time her daughters used to talk to me in English and their mom used to smile from behind and say something to her daughters which I never understood because she spoke only Vietnamese. Later, her daughters used to explain what their mom meant to tell me.
Gradually, I started craving inside me that I wanted to talk to her directly and not via her daughters. So, I started talking to her. Trust me, I am sure we both said two totally different things at the same time. We smiled, we laughed and sometimes we both used to realise that we are not on the same page. God! I cannot forget those moments. I was trying so hard to understand her and she was trying so hard as well. Poor her, she was also trying to learn English to communicate with me.
One day I told her that I will teach her English and started teaching her the basics by taking her to the kitchen, to the garden and making her say the names of spices and utensils and furniture in English and she used to write those words in Vietnamese. Sometimes I felt that it was so selfish of me to try to teach her English which I understood but not the other way around to learn her language Vietnamese and go through the struggle that she was going through. But, she continued learning and we continued talking while going for walks, while going for shopping, while we were having lunch or dinner together, we continued talking. We saw each other for maybe a month.
No, she couldn’t learn English from me, maybe a very few words but we both continued talking in two different languages and we became very close friends or maybe more. At some point, we realised that language was not anymore a barrier for us to understand each other. She treated me like her sister and I had the same feeling for her. I can never forget her and this precious experience which I had with her. Later after a year or so when I was back in India, she told me once that she learnt English from a school.
I think this was the moment when I got to experience the real meaning of language that it is a method of human communication as Google says. What is the point of knowing any language if the person you are talking to doesn’t understand your words or not be able to reply to you by the same language? It really doesn’t matter what language you are communicating with if you are not making any meaning to the other person. In that situation, how you communicate with that person actually defines human communication where you speak from soul to soul and you will see that the other person understands it all. You put effort into your gestures, expressions and you both understand each other more and connect better.
In most of the five-star hotels in India when they recruit their staff, during their induction, they tell them that they need to try to communicate with their guests using the same language that the guests choose to speak to them. So, if a guest is speaking in Hindi, the hotel staff will speak in Hindi and if in English, only then will they speak in the English language. Of course, guests may speak a particular language which the staff may not know but that situation is tackled in a more careful manner to ensure that the guest doesn’t feel uncomfortable and that the guest’s needs are fulfilled.
So, knowing a language doesn’t give us any reason to feel pride in it literally, if we are not able to communicate with the other person.
Why I was talking about this subject today was because I have heard people insulting people for not knowing English in India. I know it is strange how a lot of people look at it even as a matter of pride by just speaking in English even sometimes without having any real talent. English is not our mother tongue. So, it is ok if you don’t know the language perfect. If you know the history, in the 1830s, Lord Macaulay played a major role in introducing English and western concepts to the education in India and we Indians adopted them. Now, English is one of the two official languages of the Union government of India. The other official language is Hindi.
So, our two official languages are Hindi and English. So, one may know either of the two or both or maybe neither. How does that make one feel proud and another feel less just by knowing English? Why should one feel less smart just because he or she feels her English is not perfect? The moment you make the other person feel uncomfortable for not knowing English or any other language, you consciously decide to fail on humanity and of course your manners.
Never forget that even if it is one of the official languages, it is also the method of human communication. So, end of the day, all official work is done by humans and done for humans. Yes, we have many languages in India and to make sure we have a common platform, knowing one common language makes it easy to communicate with each other but that language need not be English which actually was introduced just a few years ago by a foreigner. When it is officially needed because we communicate globally, one needs to correct it or recruit someone with the said requirement but in general, where it is not an official requirement, you have no right to judge a person’s calibre based on his or her lack of knowing English.
So, if you want to write, use the language you are comfortable with. If you want to raise your voice, use the language you are comfortable with. And, even if you have to speak in the English language in a given situation, speak and do not hesitate because you may make some mistakes. But yes, if you want to work on a global platform, travel different countries, meet people from different countries and make them friends or just work with them, then you need to put effort to learn and know English because it is spoken globally and also because it will be easy for you to communicate on a global platform.
So, never forget what Google says that language is just a method of human communication and not a matter of any pride.