My English Vinglish

“You need to ensure one parent is speaking to the twins in English,” said the teacher. “We want the children to have a basic understanding of the language.”

We were at the Montessori to finish the admission formalities for the kids at the pre-school.

“You’re going to talk to the girls in English from today onwards,” I told my husband opening the car door. (We mostly speak to them in Hindi)

“Not needed,” he replied with a grin. “You don’t have to teach them English. They will learn it. I’d rather focus on improving their Hindi.

“They’re already pretty good in Hindi. I don’t want them to draw a blank when the teacher starts talking to them in English.” I stared at him.

“Take it easy. You have started worrying for the silliest things. Relax!” he replied

I gave it a little thought and realised that he was correct. The level of exposure kids have today , English will automatically come to them.

What is it that is making you smile asked my husband looking at my face

Nothing . I was in the park with the girls yesterday and there happened to be a bunch of kids who were speaking such amazing English that even we cannot match.

“You’re right, girls will pick it up anyway.” I replied.

On way back my thoughts took me back to my growing up days.

So have you ever been judged for your English —the way you speak, your accent, or your grammar?

Did someone ever size up your personality based on your language rather than your aptitude?

If yes, then read on. You’ll be able to relate to what I’m about to share with you.

There are many walks of life where English is the last requirement but you still get judged for it. People judge you for you language and grammer instead of your aptitude.

Have you ever read the matrimony ads — Need fluently English speaking convent educated bride?

The writing on the wall is that if you don’t speak good English then either you are dumb or uneducated or both. In other words you don’t belong to the so called Elite club. This comes as a blow to your self confidence

I was raised in a small middle class family. Settled in a semi-urban area, my parents spoke version of Hindi that was heavily coloured with the regional dialect.

My upbringing was unlike other upper middle class homes where kids get the advantage of one (or both parents) being conversant with English.

Yes, I did go to a convent school and that created a reasonable base for a basic understanding of the language. I used to talk well but the fact was English never used to come natural to me as Hindi did. It still doesn’t.

To know the language is one thing and being fluent in it is totally different. When it came to writing and comprehending, I had no qualms about my abilities. What disturbed me was my limited ability to fluently express my thoughts in English. I wanted the flow to be seamless which was lacking.

Let me surrender to the fact that this was disturbing to me. In my defense, I would say that I never ceased my efforts to keep improving.

I remember maintaining a diary where I used to pen all the good words and sentences I would come across. The practice has continued to this day.

Now the life is easier because of Apps that assist you in improving the vocabulary.

The biggest improvement in my learning happened during my 8 years of corporate career. And later as and when my work took me to different places.

I’m still a work in progress and the scope of improvement is immense.

The few positives in my case are:

  1. I don’t shy away from the fact that I need to improve
  2. I make constant attempt to keep improving.
  3. I put myself in uncomfortable situations. Writing a blog is one such attempt where you’re open to public scrutiny.

Coming back to where I started — the concern for the kids to learn English —There is no need to worry about it. Kids will anyway learn it in an organic way. You definitely need to handhold them through any new language. Last thing you have to do is be the Helicopter mom when it comes to English speaking. Rather speak to them in your regional language at home.

Two things that I want to point out from my long rant.

First, English is the universal language and the need of the day. It’s supremely important to have a good command over it. It doesn’t matter where you stand today. You can always do better. Keep improving. There’s no end to learning. Read a lot. If possible, write a lot and then read out loud what you’ve written.

Second, leave the camp where an imperfect English is made a reason for judging.

Expose yourself to a broader group of self-learners who are on an intellectual journey or passionately practising their unique art. A world where language is not the end but just a means to an end.