So, I watched this movie “Half Girlfriend”. My personal advice, please do not watch this movie..ever. That surely is 2.5 hours I would never get back, ever. That much of pain must not be inflicted onto anyone. But, it struck one cord, that got me to thinking, How important is it to be English obsessed? By English, I do mean a foreign language. Do the Europeans care about flawless English? Why do everyone in third world nations have this obsession that they could achieve anything only if they master the universal language? The thing is I don’t think a person in Starbucks, Saks or Target (if you are in the US) care about you knowing the language or better so think highly of you if you spoke them fluently. No matter how hard one tries at the accent, one glance at you and they put the question mark face as though deciphering your English as it was spoken in Morse Code. Believe me when I say, people in north eastern parts of the US have a serious problem spelling the name Harini, despite spelling it out to them numerous times. I do remember once I got my cup of coffee with “Hetch” on it because I wasn’t in the mood for a game of charade at the billing counter, so I told them to write the letter “H” on the cup. A letter H translated to “Hetch” on my coffee cup. I lost all my battles that day of talking neutralized English.
I do understand there is a certain amount of knowledge attached to knowing the language, well it is our universal language after all but how much of attention or time spent bellyaching to perfecting this language, is a requirement? Or, is it a requirement at all?
I read an article on NYTimes a couple of years ago. This was right when the Mental Health dialogue starting surfacing on social media. This particular woman of Chinese descent, the writer of the article, was brought up in the US, who battled severe depression and when the medicines ceased to be of any help and having battled insomnia associated with depression for major part of her adulthood, she tried to maintain a journal to record her feelings and major mood swings episode whenever she was in a right mind to do so. The doctor found it alarming that though this woman was brought up talking English all her life, her journal had a mundane tone to it and her vocabulary was so limited, that it alarmed her doctor, considering the woman herself was a PhD. So, the doctor asked her to renew her roots and try and find out if she could travel to China and meet her family who had settled there, in a desperate attempt to find the missing link in her thought process.
The patient, did travel to China on her doctor’s prescription and found it hard for a couple of days to settle in and understand the chaos (so it seemed to her) around her and once she fell into a normal routine and learnt her native language (her mother tongue), she felt kind of a load off of her mind. It was as she described “like a fog that lifted”. She could articulate more and more about her feelings and with her family members and share her experiences and learn new experiences, that she found it sensual and therapeutic. It helped her depression, she says, and made her one of the successful writers after all.
If articulating and being emotional about the things that matter most is what marks the shift in civilization, how civilized are we if we cannot express our feelings whenever required. It is an American Dream alright, for those immigrants who took that long voyage to be something, to do something and who ended up being successful and to want more, but, lets not forget that one’s dream could be realized only when there is a strong sense of community. After all, here comes the cliché, humans are social animals. To communicate, articulate and express one’s thoughts and dreams and to make sense of it is most important.
We are so caught up in this new process of money-making and fame-making that mental health is often discounted, when it must be topping the list. To what extent would one’s success matter if one’s mental health or the one’s around them is an ongoing issue. I see of young parents battling with depression around me, the ones who take pride in their sons/daughters talking in English (only). The sense of gasping pride when their baby’s first words are in English, that he/she learnt from the Daycare, only to be facing a constricted vocabulary to converse with their own young ones. Everyone loves exclusive lifestyle, but it is often the opposite they build their dream upon, seclusion. By constantly trying to be a part of a foreign land, I personally sense an alienation from the place one belongs. The key is balance. Live in a country that gives you a good soft brioche but put the equal effort in withholding the thread and sanctity of a native language, which might bring in some sanity. After all, just knowing an international language does not translate to Knowledge or Talent, as knowledge or talent as we all know is a one way street. You either have it or you don’t.
To where we belong, we seek seclusion. To where we do not belong, we pledge our freedom.
I strongly believe in the best of energy being portrayed in areas where your heart lies.It’s a bitter truth to admit, but, the heart does depend wholly on mastering one’s mother-tongue. Then is when you start doing and saying things, soulfully and by being in touch with one’s mother-tongue makes it even more easier to adopt and adapt to any foreign language.
While a foreign language gives one confidence, it is one’s native language that gives one the freedom of imagination.