Wednesday, March 28, 2007

English as mother tongue

Ever witnessed a situation where members of a family talk to each other at home in English and not the mother tongue? Sure we have. We ourselves do it, don’t we? Knowing English today is considered a basic necessity. If someone isn’t good at it they are looked down upon & are at a disadvantage in terms of their professional life. But then knowing English is one thing & talking to members of the family in English another.

My colleague seconded the view when I told him that kids today speak much better English than what we probably used to when we were their age. There could be various reasons for it. English is there everywhere. From newspapers to TV Channels (yeah kids watch a lot of cartoons on Cartoon network don’t they?) to someone who walks up to them and asks them their name, does so in English. And if folks at home talk to each other in English then that alone is good enough for the kid to pick up the language.

There have been so many instances be it at bookstores or somewhere out on the streets, when I see kids convincing their parents to buy them something. Of course all of that is in pure English & sans any of those Indian suffixes like aa (as in yes-aa”) etc. I am dumbfounded when I see & hear that. I must also say that something like that is very encouraging, because being a recruiter I know how important it is for people to speak & write good English. But then again, I wonder do they speak in their native tongue at all. Although I don’t talk in English at home I still can’t understand some numbers in my native language, I will require a translation to understand it. Needless to say English has indeed percolated down nicely into regular every day usage. I find it amusing on one side when I hear my maid servant who speaks Tamil say “too much” but on the other side I know that is the kind of pull the English language has. It is like a magnet. There are also those people whose English language skills could be best categorized as “Average”, talking like as if they have mastered the language but only causing amusement to all around. Then there are also people who will talk to their folks at home in the native tongue but to their pets in English! Now, why is that!?

But I have seen a trend. If the husband & wife are from different castes or religions then such people are more likely to talk in English at home & when the folks at home are the intellectual kind, you can expect English again. But what I think is a fair way of looking at this is that if the people in the family are all educated in English & can speak good fluent English then it is generally found that they are speaking in English. The other important reason could be the fact that at work or at school we are only conversing in English & English is what we resort to when we are getting a thing or two done over phone. This is definitely not a cause for worry as the fact remains that English is still not widely used across India & we have a long way to go to reach large scale literacy, then English literacy & its everyday usage & then finally English could really replace our native tongues at home. That is a long way, but the optimist in me says it will come, the recruiter in me says the sooner it is the better & the Indian in me says the slower the better, for our native language has its own little aura attached to it & the best way to treat it is to speak it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Are you what you are today because of your dad?

Are you what you are because that is what your parents wanted you to be? There is a high possibility that the answer is yes. But why is it like that. Why do parents have such a big say in what we should be? Why do they push us into becoming a doctor or an engineer when we want to do management or the arts?

I remember this school friend of mine. Both of us studied together till the 10th standard & later I decided to take the commerce stream despite my parents advising me to take up science. My friend was also pressurized to take up science and eventually did that only to flunk his 12th exams. Being a recruiter I have seen so many candidates who have done their 11th & 12th in the science stream & then shifting to the commerce stream for their graduation. Some of them end up doing two graduations; say a BCA & then a B. Com through correspondence. Some of them discontinue whatever they are doing because they can’t cope with it & end up doing Diplomas. To top all this, I came across a case where in the parent just crossed the limit. There was this girl who wanted to pursue her BA but her dad wanted her to do B.Com or BBM. The girl of course didn’t agree. So how was it resolved? Dad asked her daughter to quit studies & work instead. The father wasn’t really keen on her doing BA because he was of the view that someone doing a BA didn’t stand a good chance in the job market. Today the girl is working & still has no permission to pursue her graduation in BA.

I suppose its in our culture this entire thing. What the elders say is right? And what they say should be followed. We are brought up with such thinking. But today when there are numerous career choices open parents forcing their children to take a particular path is completely unfair & unwanted, because most of the new career paths pay well & are proper careers not just jobs.

Everything in life has its extremes. So here too, its not always like the parents are forcing their kids to become what they want them to become. The other extreme of this is when parents give too much leeway to their kids to decide what they want to do with their life. They are like ‘whether you do Commerce or Science, that doesn’t matter, all I want is you to be happy & successful.’ Sometimes that goes even further, ‘even if you don’t work its fine.’ Such an approach isn’t healthy either. Such a casual & free approach will not help the kids and at a later date when they are faced with a situation where in they are not enjoying the job, the parents ‘you do what you want’ approach could be detrimental to the kids future.

Parents have to partner with their kids & help them understand the merits & demerits of pursuing something as a career. Today being a doctor is not all & all those who did engineering because that was like the next best option after medicine are now also doing MBA to equip themselves with the management knowledge so that they are not left behind by those who learnt Accounts & Finance in their graduation.

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