Let me come out clean first. I too was guilty of judging people based on their spoken English, until I met the most kind and warm-hearted people speaking broken English. While I say so, I am not ashamed to accept that I was weak in Math. I was lucky, no one mocked me for my silly unintentional mistakes because it was never audible to the ears.
Now, assuming you have not lived my life or been in the shoes of a non-English speaking person, how about our Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi? Do you think he spoke English all his life? Or do you believe all the success he achieved in life has anything to do with English?
Is it all about English Vinglish?
In the year 2012, we witnessed an offbeat movie displaying the story of a woman who endures daily embarrassments from her daughter and husband because of her inability to speak English. Didn’t we find their reaction mean and annoying towards Sridevi’s character?
What distinguished the character was her incredible zeal for cooking delicious recipes and a crystal clear heart. Yet one day, she learns English and silences her husband & daughter by the most mind-blowing wedding speech of her life. Learning English had nothing to do with making a living. She learns it only to get back her respect and self-esteem in the family.
Then, why are we all hellbent about the language?
There are many walks of life where English is the last requirement. People judge others personality based on a language instead of aptitude. Many cricketers, soldiers, chefs, athletes, politicians, and actors tasted success only because of their sheer toil and versatile talent. But in spite of their visible achievements, all we spoke about was how many grammatical errors did they make in the interview. Unfair, isn’t it?
In India, speaking fluently in English is considered a sign of the smart and intelligent individual. And for many, it is a mark of affluence and social status. Remember that matrimonial ads saying, “Need fluent English-speaking bride.” English is a language for the elite while any other vernacular is treated as “MIDDLE CLASS” in our society.
When you expose yourself to a broader set of the group occupied in intellectual studies or pursuing a unique art form, then a language is of no importance.
Is English a mark of intelligence?
For years, the grammar Nazis have judged people based on their English vocabulary. Many times, we come across smart people, extremely talented in subjects like Math, and we are awestruck. Although, their English may have been weak but does that allow us to categorize them as non-intelligent or dumb?
According to the Macmillan Dictionary, an intelligent person is someone who is “good at thinking clearly and quickly at understanding difficult ideas, and subjects, and at gaining and using knowledge.”
So, precisely how quickly a person’s brain grasps and exercises displays the intelligence of the individual. I do not deny the fact that verbal-linguistics is a measurable factor of intelligence, but that does not imply that the person has to be excellent in the English language.
Learning the language is entirely another matter of discussion. Most people expertise in the language because of few basic reasons; part of their upbringing, strict English medium school, love for English literature and rest of the people master the dialect only to get a reasonable job in the society.
Honestly, it is time we all come to the realization that one cannot label a person as stupid just because of their unproficiency in the English language, that way honorable Prime Minister Mr. Modi would not have been what he is today. Non-English speakers or people with broken English speech are neither stupid nor unsmart. Just like many of us are pathetic at computer coding, the same way the coders or mathematicians may not be good English speakers.
Accurate communication is essential, but what about the language?
Everyone is bent upon learning English as it guarantees a decent job in the country or abroad. It is the language for science or commerce and plays a vital role in the tourism industry. Right from networking to corporate jobs to entertainment, we depend on English.
In India, both Hindi & English is used as the language for communication as per the official languages act, 1963. So, ideally, anyone working or communicating in Hindi is not a concern or reason for criticizing them; instead, it is a matter of pride. Let’s not forget how the French defend their language!
Prominent names such as Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rajinikanth, Kapil Dev, Kangana Ranaut, Akshay Kumar, etc. were not proficient in English all their life. Coming from a humble background, English was not their first language. They practiced and brushed up their basics when the situation demanded. However, it wasn’t English but their incredible skill sets which made them BIG.
Your capability is the talent inside, not your hold on the English language. However, if you are a writer or an English news journalist, then yes, your brilliance in English is a must. So, enhance your “skill set” and everything else will fall in place.
And for all those competent English speakers, accept non-English individuals with the same respect because they know things which you don’t know too. And you never know, the person you ridiculed yesterday may turn into the biggest superstar someday.
It’s not all about English Vinglish; opportunities only see problem-solvers not language braggers.