Culture has not remained localized anymore. We’ve steadily seen every culture spreading it’s wings across the expanse of the earth. There is something for everyone to enjoy via this cultural exchange — the art enthusiasts, the food lovers, the musically inclined and so on. In the midst of all this, one aspect stands out as one of the most important definitions of culture — language.
These days, there is no dearth of multilingual people around. In fact, being at least bilingual is the norm today. Unbeknownst to us, we utilize words from different languages in daily speech. This is not limited to informal speech as some languages import words from others, it’s common knowledge. Everything was going just fine and it was all cool, until people started trying to achieve linguistic supremacy.
“Discrimination based on colour?”
“Discrimination based on religion?”
“Discrimination based on language?”
“Holy shit! You frickin’ genius! How did no one think of this sooner?”
India is a place of amazing cultural diversity and accepting of all, or so they say. Living in India for the past 4 years, I’ve seen otherwise. Now let me get to addressing the matter at hand in the Indian context.
I think pop culture and our personal experiences have made abundantly clear that high school is nothing but trouble and grief. Now, presenting to you one of my most ‘amazing’ high school stories.
I had a classmate who was pretty shy, but always tried to break out of his shell. Let us call him ‘X’ for the sake of convenience. X wasn’t the brightest, but you could see that he tried. A few nice people always encouraged X to take part in activities and to get on stage so that it would catalyze the process. Being a North Indian, he was fluent in his mother tongue i.e. Hindi. However, he never had great control over the English language. In high schools around India, not being good in English equals being uncool and the butt of ridicule. Sure enough, X was constantly picked on and treated like crap for not being fluent in English. This visibly hurt his confidence a lot. The poor guy was trying to come out of his shell, but ended up being pushed deeper inside. This went on until high school was over.
There are millions of people like X in my country, and billions around the world, who are ridiculed for not having good control over a specific language. It wouldn’t matter if X had a PhD in his native tongue, he would still be ridiculed for his inability to speak in English. To the people who ridiculed X, this was just a seemingly harmless dig and spur of the moment humor. I’m certain they even forgot about it in a couple of hours. However, to X, this was a long lasting wound. I for one, find it pretty weird that your social image in India is based on your command on English and not on your ability to speak in your native language. This mindset might be a by-product of the British rule that India faced ages ago or might stem from the same insecurity that most Indians have about being brown and not white. Either way, this is totally unacceptable to someone like me who was brought up in a society with people from different parts of the world. (I lived in an international community in Saudi Arabia for the first thirteen years of my life, in case you were wondering)
Another example to back my claim is the never-ending feud in India as to which is the “National Language”. The majority lies with Hindi, because it’s the language spoken in the capital of the country i.e. New Delhi. However, people who don’t speak Hindi have a problem with this. There has never been an official conclusion, and by the looks of it, there never will be. People will continue fighting to establish language supremacy for ages to come.
I have written about things I have seen with my own two eyes, but I am sure that something of this sort happens in every country around the world. I’m not sure why it should, but it does. If you have any such experience to share that you’ve seen happen in your country, please do share it in the comments
No language is supreme. No language is royalty. No language is the rule.
Let people express themselves in any language they deem fit. Comfort is something that comes from within and cannot be forced. No one has the right to put down a fellow human being based on his/her bad control over a language that YOU deem supreme. No one should have to spend sleepless nights over something as stupid is this.
There is beauty to every language, understand that. Embrace the fact being different from you doesn’t mean being wrong. Don’t use language as propaganda. Being well versed in a language is a choice, give people that freedom.
Adios amigos! (I’m learning Spanish by the way, it’ll be the 5th language I know. Yay!)