Ahem, can we speak in English?

You know those clusters of friends generally hulking about aroudn corners or near staircases (why the straircases? Not like there is a lot of room there already!) – anything between three to fifteen of them – out of whom most speak one language and a minority does not? Lets just take hindi as that language for now, though I've seen doesn't happen so often with northies(North Indians) as it does with mallus(Malayalis), bongs(bengalis), and tams(Tamiliams). Why do they insist on speaking hindi, when English is available? I realise some things are best said in your mother tongue, but when there is a conversation in a group, it is most unfair to exclude the minority – and when an alternative is open, and ready for the taking! Do they not realise how uncomfortable and irrtated the few get?

Must admit, I'm guilty of this too… but I've actually seen a pair in a group of three do this – brings a whole new meaning to "two is company, three is a crowd" almost like tacking on a "… so go away". There are people who ALWAYS use thier mother tongue, at the slightest oppertunity, blithly ignoring the need to translate for those who don't understand. This total lack of consideration on their part – and I've been a party somtimes – is very irksome. It's a whole different ball game when it's just two people talking – then, yes use timbactooian if you wish…

Consider the case in the lab today. We went to the teacher to demonstrate our project, and that man, on learning I was Tamilian, switched to that language. (On the positive side, we were spared the torture of his broken english) It would not have been a problem if I weren't the only one who understood the language. ALL the suggestions, ideas and corrections were made in a stream of strongly accented palghatian dialect. Understandably, my teammates were pissed.

I'm multilingual. I call myself the jack of all languages… and master of none. Obviously, my English is reasonably fluent, and my hindi comes a distant second. Hindi mein kuch na kuch bol to detein hoon. (I manage to say something or the other in Hindi) Those are the only two I can read and write. Of course, I can write Sanskrit too (comes with the script) but what little I learnt back in school seeped out of my head – sideways. ..

But I do speak Tamil. But (here's the catch) it is Iyengar Tamil – that most of my fellow state-mates deem alien language and pull my leg for. Therefore I dont' speak it often enough – I'm constantly told that I can't even talk like a Bram properly. Not my fault Iyengars are a minority. It took me some time after I landed up in Tamil Nadu before I realised that 'You speak Bram tamil!' was NOT a compliment. But I've always been dense that way.

I can also manage Telgu and Malyalam, and understand Punjabi (duh! anyone who know hindi…) … And at the end of the day, (btw) struggle for words to clearly, concisely express what I'm thinking. So it's very rarely that I get excluded from the rgoup we were talking about earlier (ah! you thought I was rambling aimlessly, just blowign my own trumpet) … but anyone who has seen the lost looks or blank faces or staring-off-into-the-distance-with-a-grim-set-to-the-mouth has got to agree with me.

One just has to use the language that maximum number of people use – the object of it, after all, is to communicate.

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25 responses to “Ahem, can we speak in English?

  1. no wonder you are learning egyptian..he he :)…Hindi – National Language ma, Theriyimono…Anyway I am planning to write a racial script on it…HUM AAP ADIKARTHUKAE PORANDIRIKOM…Ok Iyengaru garu …Yentha paryinnu…Nyan oru Iyeranu…but I SIMBLY have the KNNOWLEDDGE and don’t agree :)…C, JAVA learn panra madri also learn other languages…afterall all the languages you are speaking about came before English…

  2. Well Hindi and English are languages that must be accepted throughout India. PERIOD.

  3. The thing is though I am an iyengar surrounded by people who speak iyengarish tamil, i have never managed to say aathu. It is always veetu. Anyway, it helps when I speak to non-iyengar people.

  4. hey..i totally agree with u…and i dont know hindi…so the blank look does come naturally from me…and the hindi fellows think i am rude !!! 😐

  5. navin ~ nono, don’t you know ma, you ahev my sheddule all rong, (spellign mistakes are, of course, part fo the game) egyption is later πŸ˜› I’m going to attack french or german soonish.. like say in the next couple of years. “hum aapko”, I think, btw. πŸ˜€ Yes, yes, I went to colledge to get soem knowdge, and not i can talk more about c, c++, perl adn all that ther stuff, na. When you do write that racial script (And do! do!) I’ll make sure I read it.

    apoorv gawde ~ yes they must. that is thier purpose, is it not?

    neon ~ I say ‘aathu’ and ‘satamadhu’ all the time. No wonder I get it good. thanks for dropping by my blog, btw.

    karthigeyan ~ how unfair! most certainly not my fault.

  6. Yes it is irritating. i think the worst thing is when there are a group of people and most of them are chattering away in their mother tongue while the others dont have a clue..its super rude.

  7. see a little bit of bein comfortable with ur language is within everyone. we all do speak english but there r sumtings i jus have to say in hindi (for them to sound funny etc..)
    and its not jus bout india man. in s’pore we have english chinese malay and tamil as the national languages and mind a lot of times english is not given preference over the other three!!
    but then again! i myself have many a times used hindi to put across a point to a fellow indian ( a point i dun want heard by a chinese person around me!!)

    think the world shud jus learn english!!

  8. racial people…:)…every one seems to be a fanatic of their mother tongue and English and nothing else…apoorv I don’t approve of you, trying to rule again or what? Iyegaru garu, aathu or voodu ellam onnum thaan, hindi therilai na kathukonga karthigeyan, hindi padam parunga, its easy to learn. (Seth pasanga ungala thittina puriyum illa) :)…I was like this when I was in India, now I really don’t think its rude if I dont understand a language, it is because the other two persons have to convey something in a secret way without you understanding it. :)…whats wrong with that…we are all guilty of doing it…go to france/russia talk in english…they will think you are rude. Its better we learn a language than blaming others. It really increases the vocab skills…english is in now way superior nor is hindi, nor tamil or sanskrit…the arguement that the world should just learn english comes from an American and is purely racial and dictatorship. Go tell that to a tribe in Africa and they will kill you. you better tell them jume kke llala !utomoa hee (meaning world should learn your language its easy) :)…

  9. dc ~ that is exactly what I was whining about. Sets my teeth on the edge

    aesa ~ yes, but you wouldn’t hold the whole damn entire conversation in hindi, would you? especially if a non-hindi speaker is involved?

    navin ~ what racial, baap? point is very simple. You want to pass snide comments, yes, that’s what you use an exclusive language for. Suppose you are in Germany, and you and your friends are talking to a group of germans, trust me, they will make an effort to make sure you understand what they are saying. Sign language, broken english, slow enunciation of german (like that’ll help) or whatever goes. But they do try. Why don’t WE use a languge which we KNOW everyone knows, and reserve the other language purely for snide conversation? Surely you’d expect your french lab teacher to explain something to you in english if he knows english, rather than stick to a language that you do not know – i assume – rather than the language he is most comfortable in?

  10. While we’re kinda on the topic, I’d like to mention something my friend pointed out to me… He asked me what language I thought in, as in the language my thoughts ran in when I was speaking to myself or contemplating things… I noticed that I think in English… Turns out that some of my friends think in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and stuff, and they’re not generally as comfortable as I am with English… Pretty interesting, huh?

  11. nopes never.. most of my good n close frens here are non-hindi speakin. and i make it a point to not let them feel left out arnd hindi people.
    i have translated entire hindi movies for my fren maria!!(dialogue by dialogue evn the songs)
    and they do the same fr me wen it comes to tamil!

  12. noetic license ~ yeah, true. I think in English too.. and have had long conversations about what thinking in hindi does to your chances at CAT. I dn’t think you can change the language that you think in, not unless you constantly use it. For instance, for the first four years of my life, i never knew english – so obviously I thought in telagu.. and then it changed…

    aesaM ~ that’s the point, babe.

  13. yeah, i know….happens all the time here….the lab helpers pretty much know only tamil…..makes it tough for the northies…guess i’m like u in this case, ‘coz i can speak 4 languages other than english…punjabi too, i guess, going by what u say….

  14. My Tamil is ridiculed too which upsets me sometimes. Agreed it’s my mother tongue, but where I live and the circumstances in which I live matter too. What if the only person I speak Tamil with is my mom? Is it any wonder then, that I cannot understand the thirukkurals or other poems written in pure tamil?

    Btw, are you sure Iyengars are a minority? Then how come every damned girl I happen to fall for HAS to be an Iyengar? I don’t know where in TN you are from but I definitely don’t believe this is the case in Chennai… πŸ˜‰

  15. Monk (dropping the ‘the’ coz I’m lazy) ~ yup. have to translate the entire conversation for northies. on the other hand, most of them now know how to curse fluently in
    Tamil. πŸ˜‰

    leon ~ Nope, no wonder at all. You can’t learn a language without practice. Just can’t be done.
    I most cerainly am sure Iyengars are a minority. πŸ˜€ You just ‘happen’ to fall for the minority… (Don’t think it’s that much of a coincidence!) Me, I don’t know that many iyengar girls. Or guys. And yes, I’m from Chennai. Maybe I just need to network more…

  16. Navin:”apoorv I don’t approve of you”
    My Response, I do not seek your approval.
    Criticize the opinion never the person.

  17. cool apporv…I am not critsizing you…maybe you got me wrong…If I make the statement like I don’t approve your statement…probably that should do it…yes and I don’t and its natural for you to do the same…no big deal…do not take it personally….you already have…so there is no shame in telling a sorry…I am sorry

  18. *sighs*
    Thank Eru no fight on my blog.

    πŸ˜› for both navin and apoorv

  19. Well Navin, I guess you meant “I do not approve of what you said” in that case that’s fair enough. No offence taken πŸ™‚ Just be careful how you phrase the words, that is all I wanted to point out.

  20. Mallus are .. warm once they accept you. I know it takes a looooot of evaluation before they let you into a group.. at least was that way with me.

    I had a worse problem in Trivandrum – even my TAmil wasn’t great. Luckily, my freinds spoke both English and Hindi (KV) and eventaully I learned mallu…

  21. Hey can relate so much to what ur sayin. I am a mallu, brought up in chennai and now livin in Delhi. But like you the only 2 languages that i can read and write is English & Hindi. Although Tamil, i can Seethu Seethu padikamudiyum! My mother tougue dont u ask. THanz to mallu movies i can now speak a fair bit malayam. Strange wrld this! Cest la Indie! o was tha french ( thas proberbly tha few strands that stuck to me inspite of failing in col) πŸ˜‰ Saw u @ chole and then at Sonali. A big Hi.

  22. tuwahde palle punjabi vi paindi hai??

  23. too late…but well …if u speak in a common language, people like me will get offended :-))

    How dare thou speaketh an alien tongue when iniya chennai tamizhu is there?

    I would call you “peter party” then :-p

    Jokes apart…well…it becomes a habit…… i used to feel irritated when the golts and the mallus used to speak in their mother tongue (although i can understand em both) … bt of late i have also become what u have just spoken of!

  24. Well, check me out..I am mallu, i picked up madras tamil- both tambaram and city dialects, within three years in madras.I learned to communicate fairly in kannada within one year and many small stints at bangalore. I speak mumbaiyya hindi cause i’m in mumbai now. If you put me in a remote village in maharashtra i’m quite confident i can get around with my marathi. Howzaat..My english is fine- i’m a professional writer. I kinda know german and can follow spanish to some extent(thats purely out of interest).

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