**Warning**: This post contains various threads of thought and would be a long post. Don't complain later that you got lost :P
I was reading Radhika's recent post. She talks about being pulled up by her daughter's teacher because her daughter wasn't well-conversant in English (and she is only 5 years old!!!!)
The post set me of thinking. When I was a child Amma and Appa made sure that I was well-conversant in Tamil. According to Amma, it is imperative that every child should know his/her mother tongue properly. I am not very fluent in reading and writing in Tamil, but I am learning. Amma is only too eager to teach me. Initially it was only tamil for me. Later as I started playing with my building friends, I slowly started picking up Hindi and gradually was well-versed in Mumbaiyya sadak chaap Hindi. I joined an English medium school though the medium of my communication with my friends, peers was mostly in Hindi. My usage of English was very minimal. After my 10th, during College, usage of English became more dominant and now I speak both Hindi and English with ease.
It is very funny as to how English is viewed in our country. English is considered as an elite language, a language of snobs. Ok....I am not making a genralistic statement. English is viewed as a language of opportunity. Sending your children to a English medium school is viewed as a sign of progress, as an ascent in the life of the child. I once asked Amma who takes immense pride of her language if she would have ever sent me to a Tamil medium school. Amma replied in negative and said that she wouldn't have sent me a to a non-english medium school because KNOWING ENGLISH is very essential and that she couldn't afford to jeopardise my future by sending me to a non-english medium school. Quite a honest answer and that's sadly the reality.
When I was in my Junior college i.e. 11th and 12th, I had many students in my class from Gujarai, Hindi, Marathi medium schools. With a sudden transition to English in 11th std after having studied in an indigenious language is very tough. I used to see merit holders struggle just because they didn't know English well. I felt that was very unfair.
I sometimes feel very sad because of my inability to enjoy some classics in Tamil. Tamil is a beautiful language but my knowledge of it is restricted to colloquial Tamil. I know zilch about Tamil literature though I keep hearing from Amma and Paati time and again. I am very fond of Hindi too. But I never read much of Hindi literature either. My speaking in Hindi is restricted to speaking alone. Also nowadays I hardly read anything in Hindi. I realised how pathetic I was when I first read Premchand's Gaban in English. :| It really hit me that time. I just thought as to what the hell I was doing reading a translated version of a Hindi book when I can perfectly understand and read Hindi. Offlate I have picked up a few books in Hindi and I intend reading them soon. The problem I faced was that being in a English medium school, my reading was restricted to English only. I was too lazy and never even bothered to make an attempt to read books in Hindi or even Marathi for that matter. I have realised I have lost out on a lot and don't wish to any further, better late than never as they say.
I think English-medium schools hardly encourage the students to read books other than English which is pathetic and extremely sad. Ours is a multi-lingual society. It is very important that we KNOW our languages well and not in the fractured way that I know. Also there is ridiculous thing of branding all Indian languages as vernacular. VERNACULAR has a derogatory tinge to it as it was a label given to the Indian Languages by the BRITISH. Our Languages have a rich heritage and we need to respect it. Either it is disrespect or it is complete ignorance.
I was reading Mark Tully's NO FULL STOPS IN INDIA. He is an amazingly observant person. I like that about him. The second chapter of the book is called NEW COLONIALISM. It's an amazing write-up. Guys, if you ever get hold of it, please do read it. It is very ineresting to note the objective observations made by a Non-Indian about the Indian society.
I have a subject called Indian regional journalism in my course. We had been given this project which made it imperative for us to have a compulsory interaction with the editors, journalists of both English and Indian languages. It also has us reading newspapers in couple of Indian languages. There are glaring differences. There are differences in the readership, the content published etc. English newspapers in comparison to regional languages contain shit load of fluff. Regional language newspapers address real issues of real people. It was also observed by us that English newspapers are cut off from the reality. English newspapers amount to a miniscule readership in India. It is the Indian language press which is experiencing a big boom. But it is a big irony when majority of the ad-share goes to the English press leaving the Indian language press in doldrums. Many of the regional papers just plainly ape English papers with a hope that it would sell more. For example, I don't understand what is a cut out of Britney Spears doing in the front page of Navbharat Times? It is seriously ridiculous. The support to the regional languages is very poor.
In Mumbai, the numbers in a Marathi medium schools are dwindling like crazy. There are simply no takers for it. Also the local langauge schools consist of students from the lower strata of society. I sometimes wonder, are Indian languages only for the lower strata? English is gaining such prominence in India that the Indian languages are sure isolated. If Indian languages were given their due respect and the atmosphere such that the opportunities were aplenty, I don't think my mom would thought twice about sending me to a local medium school. I am not saying 'DONT PROMOTE THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE" Promote it by all means, we need it in order to succeed globally. What I intend to say is that DON'T NEGLECT INDIAN LANGAUGES IN THE PROCESS. Well.....*sigh*
I think I have rambled enough..... bye for now! :)