Don’t insist on English! …a TED talk by Patricia Ryan

As an English teacher myself, I think this is the last statement expected out of me ‘Don’t insist on English’ but after listening to Patricia Ryan in one of the TED talks last week, I definitely want to ask…why should we insist on English?!

Living in India particularly, we are enveloped in a sea of languages. I am a ‘Mallu’ from Keralaand my mother tongue is Malayalam. I am married to an ‘Andhraite’ (or as my mother in law will stress, now a ‘Telangana-ite’) and they speak Telugu at home. I have lived in the capital for the first 25 years of my life making Hindi my first language at times.And I have been living in the silicon city for around 10 years now, where the state language is Kannada. Well I can already see myself swimming in the sea of languages!

So where does English stand a chance? In our country, ironically, everywhere!

If you are not fluent in the British language then you might not stand a chance in your job interview.If you are grammatically making no sense then you might be the laughing stock in your friend circle.If you have not studied in an English medium school you might be looked down upon. And, if YOU don’t speak English, you definitely try your best in making your child ‘English proficient’ so that he or she doesn’t lose an opportunity in today’s competitive world.

Why others…let me confess, during my school days, I myself have many a times secretly envied my friends with ‘convent’ education, wondering if my parents could have sent me to a ‘Christian’ school I would have also rattled off in English with ease. I felt, with the language, would have come more confidence!! Or was I wrong?!

I have wondered countless times, why so much fascination and attention to this foreign language. Should it be a criteria to assess your capabilities and knowledge? As Patricia says “Thank god Einstein didn’t have to pass TOEFL!”

Well all this doesn’t mean I have anything against the language. If I had, I wouldn’t be in this profession.I love the language! For that matter why only English, all languages have their own beauty with its respective history and tradition. All I hope is that we are able to protect and preserve our native languages as much as we stress on this foreign language.

Anyway, what I can infer at this stage is that,with a globe so big, there is a need to unite the boundaries around the world…right? And, English fills that blank beautifully! Yes, English is the common means of communication worldwide and to fit in the puzzle perfectly you will have to go the ‘English’way.

Is that good reasoning?

Do we lose on talent or intelligence, because of a language?

That’s something I leave you with, to ponder on.

– Shynara Reddy
  Primary English Facilitator, International Centre for Excellence