Why is speaking English at home a taboo?
Weekends is when I get to spend a lot of time with my daughter. Being a working mom, this is the best part I look forward to – to unwind and feel rejuvenated. Last Saturday we went to the park as usual. It was pretty late when we went down- the park is usually overcrowded if we venture out at the regular time and my dotty hardly gets her chance at the swing. Hence she prefers going once the crowd has died down and I like this time as well when she can play to her hearts content and I stand by watching and talking to her.
Now the language we converse in at home and not just restricted to conversations with the child but between me and my hubby, my mum, brother and me and my grand mum and well is English. Now before that crease appears on your brow- let me tell you why. I have written about this in the past and that’s why I just pasted the link here as it’s easier that way than being repetitive.
I request my readers to read it before they proceed further as it’s relevant to the context.
I am a bit conscious about speaking to Angel in English outside home as I have often got the most weird and funny reactions from people and that always is – they look, realize that a mum is speaking to her child in English and hastily switch from Hindi, Marathi or any other language which they were conversing in right till the last minute and loudly start talking to the child in English. What transpires is even funnier. The child who is obviously unaware of why this sudden change occurred looks up, is often unable to reply in English for the most obvious reason that it is not what is spoken by the parent and child in normal course and the poor child just mumbles something and gets back to his game.
This infuriates me to no end- it happened twice that day. As Angel was climbing up the slide and her eyes were all over the playground, I told her gently and slowly – “Baby watch your step, look down, you may fall.” Almost the next minute a mom nearby who was screaming loudly into her phone in Gujrati bellowed to her son who was on the swing nearby “Watch out the swings, holding tight you”. It made me angry and made me laugh, I let out a guffaw unintentionally, and it was so sudden that I couldn’t control it. She got the message is what I gather as she walked away in a huff.
I then took Angel to the club house which has a room full of toys for little children. There was just another girl aged about 5 with her father. I decided not to talk to Angel unless need arises for people often mistake it as “showing off by speaking in English”. The father daughter were conversing in Marathi till the point I opened my mouth. I had to open my mouth as Angel needed help in fixing some blocks. So there it goes again- the Dad starts “Baby show me your what you have for your tea party- you have cupcakes, coffee and fruits, wow, what else. Go get more”.
I was seething in irritation and anger when I went home and told my mom “How do you put up with these bunch of lunatics every day when you take Angel down to the park. I cannot bear it for one day. I feel like walking over, looking them in the eye and asking them” so first of all you judge people who speak English at home as angrez, show off and portray this fake image that you are worried what will happen to our mother tongues, they would be endangered and all that stuff, and then like a chameleon why do you switch over to talking the same to your child when you see someone else converse. Why would you be ashamed to speak your language then?
And before you judge- know the facts, just because a parent speaks to their child in English this does not imply that they have no regard and do not intend to teach their child the mother tongue. The reasons could be varied. So stop judging and stop the weird transition which is even more annoying.
I was discussing this with a close blogger friend who also speaks in English to her kids and she told me a similar story about people giving her weird looks when she told them that they spoke in English at home. It’s often the most natural thing for many families as it’s the language the parents’ converse in and it is but natural that this is then continued once the child is born.
This is not to undermine other languages or give English a superiority status – as people often confuse it to be. I on my part am also acquainting my daughter with Hindi as I have often found in India that as much protective we are of our vernacular languages, we disregard the common thread that binds us all and that’s Hindi- our national language.
I visited Switzerland a few months back on an official trip and what amazed me was the respect people have for their national language there. I would want my daughter to be equally fluent in our national language and not just focus on her mother tongue but learn other vernacular languages as well.
I have lived in Maharashtra for a major part of my life and I am very comfortable in speaking in marathi, in fact I love the language and do not shy away from speaking when I get an opportunity. I would want to inculcate a similar attitude and open mindedness in my child as well where she is open to learning new languages and does not consider any one superior to other for I believe all are equal, beautiful, unique and we must learn, speak and keep them alive.
The intent of this post is – for people to really stop forming an opinion without being aware of the facts and let parents choose what they want to speak with their kids. They are matured enough to figure out when and how they want to pass on the knowledge of other languages to their child. And yes stop the pretense please of that switching over from vernacular to English suddenly when you overhear someone speaking – if it appeals so much to you by all means go speak it with your child but not just when you hear other