They say that your language is the one that you speak when you are angry, the one that you speak in your dreams. How can you be ashamed of it?
I have no regrets telling people that I come from a land, where people speak in at least 850 different languages and 1,683 dialects or their “mother tongues”. Our Indian constitution recognizes 15 regional languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu). Ten of the major states of India are generally organized along linguistic lines.
So what generally causes us to lose touch with our native language & prompts us to join the ranks of liberal English speaking with thick North or South Indian Accents?
I know of some people who went abroad (US, Canada, Australia etc.) and stayed there for many years. When they returned here, they were already unable (or did not want to) speak our native language. What they do is just speak in English and try to imitate an accent which they think that sounds cooler. It's kind of annoying. But the question still remains that, if you go to another country and stay there for a long time, will you eventually forget about your native language?
I often find people who are Gujaratis but are hesitant of speaking in Gujarati when conversing with their fellow Gujaratis, hesitant of their revealing their own identity. I am dumbstruck when I find that they are proud not to know their mother tongue, and I get frustrated when two Gujaratis speak in Hindi or English. (Ever heard two Bengalis speaking any language other than Bengali, or two Malayalis speaking anything other than Malayalam?)
I do not understand any of this. There is nothing wrong in learning, liking and adapting other languages. But why refrain with your own?
I searched & found out that, that it has all started with a kind of “Acceptance Complex”. Someday someone went out somewhere, a place where he was surrounded by people speaking English fluently. He was not able to join the conversation because he did not know English. The feeling of segregation overpowered. He put his kids in an English medium school, and took away everything from the kids that will make them love their mother tongue: Gujarati Books, Gujarati Songs, History of Gujarati Language and Gujarati environment.
“His kids grew up with a detachment with their own language, yet it was not completely wiped off from them. So, they were torn between Gujarati and English, East and West. They chose English over Gujarati, because “America ma badha English bole (In America everyone speaks English)”.
One grad student studying for a management degree and have spent close to 4 years here tells me. “My friend just came in the New Year (about 2 months back for his undergrad) and has already put up an accent!!! His explanation is that, in the past few weeks he has made so many American friends that he has forgotten the Desi English which he spoke for 20 years. His English is excellent but the pseudo accent is very annoying. On many occasions I mistook his calls to be telemarketing calls. It's like speaking to a different person altogether. Now he admires everything American and despises anything Indian. Hope I am not next in line”.
I understand developing an accent is a natural process. But do people really have to put up an accent and talk when they talk to their old pals whom they have known for years ??? I find this blind aping of any culture extremely disgusting.
Personally, I have no problem with people putting accent. It’s funny when people put on accent with wrong English. Let me give you some real life examples here (source courtesy Times of India):
Arunima, a 19-year-old English Hons student who was born and raised in Texas, says, "It's funny when people back home tell me that I sound like Hannah Montana. Everyone in Texas sounds like Hannah Montana!" Akhil Chopra, who runs his own advertising agency, lived in England till he finished school, and has been told he sounds like Harry Potter. "It's funny, because everyone in England 'sounds like Harry Potter', and I never thought that someone would actually ever say that to me!"
Julia Tirkey's maid, Pyaari, seems to be awestruck every time Julia speaks. Says Julia, "Every time I'm speaking, she just stops to listen. Even though she doesn't understand a lot, she says I sound like the "angrezi madams" on TV."
There are of course, people on both sides of the spectrum. On one end is the Kannada/Tamil/Gujarati/Bengali speaking super exclusive group, who converse in their mother tongues, eat traditional food and have been like a rock with respect to the people they are and the environment they are in. They are mostly happy with things, their friends, and so on, and don’t really feel like they are missing anything, or that they should be doing something else.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who avoid fellow nationals at all costs to ‘move away’ from who they have been.
I would say that a good 70% of the diaspora are swimming somewhere between these extremes, not wanting to appear ‘clannish’ or exclusive, but ending up in an all-desi group anyway.
At the end of the day, you’re going to end up mimicking the accent you’re most surrounded by. We humans tend to do that, not just so that people around us can understand us better, but also so that we can understand them better. So please don’t consciously mimic people’s accents while talking to them. Other than imitation still being the sincerest form of flattery, it’s helpful for your own cognition of what people around you are saying.
Thanks for reading folks!