Why Are We So Sensitive About Speaking Correct English?

by | Jul 31, 2020 | Public Speaking | 20 comments


Imagine for a moment that you’re standing in front of me right now and we are just talking to each other. When I said, we are ‘talking’ to each other, and even at a subconscious level, if you’re thinking that, Praveen, is it ‘talking’ to each other or ‘speaking’ to each other?

Why So Sensitive?

Even if you have not talked like this, but you know that there are some people who are super sensitive about people when they speak in English. It’s like they expect that people should speak correct English only. The pronunciation of words, the stress on syllable grammar, everything has to be a hundred percent correct if you’re speaking in English. 

Why Not So Sensitive About Other Languages?

My question is this, why don’t we expect the same thing when we speak in our local language? So, when I speak in Marathi, when I speak in Hindi, I’m making a lot of mistakes in grammar. I make a lot of mistakes, but we don’t even acknowledge and notice those mistakes. But the moment we speak in English, even a small mistake, we acknowledge that, we notice, we help people to understand that, “Hey, you have made a mistake,” Why do we do that? and we do that only in India. 

What do you mean by that? Indians only do that. 

Is It Only Indians?

The way India looks towards English and the way other countries look towards English like China, Japan, Germany, it’s different. They’re not that obsessed with this language. 

They don’t make movies and songs on this, that because of English, people are not getting jobs or they’re suffering in their life. They don’t make something like this. So English is not at all a topic that if you don’t know English, then “Oh my God”, which is the case in India.

British Gave Us English

My perspective is this. This is only because we were ruled by British people for 200 years. Before British people, English was not at all the language of India. We used to speak the persian language. That is the language of Delhi Sultan, Nawab, Pathans. Even this language was so commonly used, even Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was well versed in this language. So, we never used to speak English before British people. 

British came and they ruled us for 200 years, by the way, 200 is a long time. And in these 200 years, especially initially, I think when they started observing those people, those Indians still speaking in English, they might have started respecting them. 

Multi-Lingual Person Gets More Respect

Imagine you are meeting someone and then that person tells you that “I can speak 10 languages, foreign languages.” The way you will look towards that person would completely change. So, anyone speaking any foreign language, I think automatically deserves more respect. Just like how someone writes a book. We look towards that person a little differently, with a lot of respect, that is, the author of that book. And I’m talking about a proper book. I’m not just talking about a four-page e-book. 

Now, because initially when Britishers or rulers, they started respecting the few people who were speaking in English and other people might have observed this. Now you cannot challenge this. This is something which if a King started respecting someone, then it has to be, it will be observed. People will notice that. And people started noticing this phenomenon that if you can speak in English with them, they respect you.

We like Commonality

Just like you’re going to the U.S. I’m going to the U.S. and I met a friend. He’s Marathi and he says this काय रे. कसा आहेस . This is how we meet friends in Marathi. The moment I see someone speaking my language, automatically, you develop some kind of affinity and respect for that person. So, I’m very sure that might’ve happened. There’s a huge difference between Hindi and English. 

So, if that happened like this, then other people started observing this and this phenomenon was getting stronger and stronger. And for 200 years, it means there were generations, there were a lot of people who have come on this planet in India, spent their entire life and left the world. So many people, 200 years, we don’t live for 200 years. So, this message got passed from generation to generation. And slowly, this notion has become so strong. It has become a part of our subconscious mind. 

Why Parents, So English In The Malls?

That’s the reason if we see it has gone so deep of normal parents, they don’t even speak a single word of English at home with small, small kids, like one year, two years. The moment these parents take their kids outside in the mall, they will never speak, especially some educated parents. They will never speak in Hindi. “Come here”, “Please” “Go”, “Stop”, “No”. Suddenly the child feels, “What happened to them?”. Because the child will slowly, in his or her life, understand this notion and then even he will behave like that. Most of us are behaving like that.

Now one question is coming in my mind and I have to settle this because at Speak and Grow Community, you know, we can do only one thing at a time. Either I can deliver a thought or I can think about something. 

Why Am I Speaking In English?

So, if you’re thinking, “Why are you making this in English? Why not in your own language? Why are you respecting English?” That’s my perspective. My perspective is this, that because this notion developed, and because of this we started speaking English, because of this English got famous. It has become a language in the constitution, by the way. In the Indian constitution, we have English — for the first time I came to know this fact just a few years ago, two to three years ago, not before that. 

I used to feel that my native language is this and that, but then I realized that in the Indian constitution, English is a language of India. Because Britishers have given this gift to us and I’m very carefully using this word gift, we’ve got a huge advantage. Huge advantage because Britishers have not only ruled us, they have ruled many countries, you know, Commonwealth, correct? 

What Is Commonwealth

Now even you must know about Commonwealth games, right? It happened in India also and got famous for some wrong reasons only. What is the Commonwealth? There are 54 countries in the Commonwealth, all the countries were ruled by British people. This country said that, okay we were ruled by the same people, same Britishers. We have a common culture, common language, common thinking, common understanding, let’s make a group so we can grow together. That’s our objective for the Commonwealth Games. There’s only one exception. There’s only one country, which was ruled by British people, but not part of the Commonwealth. 

USA Perspective

The United States of America. In fact, before 1776, this country didn’t even exist. They were only colonies and they were ruled by British people. So, the USA, even though it was ruled, but not a part of the Commonwealth, otherwise, all the countries are part of the Commonwealth, was ruled by British people and we’ve got the advantage of connecting with this world. Because even in the United States, the majority of the jobs, the Indians are getting in the United States. You will not agree. I think you should agree with this because of our ability to speak in English, which is the gift of British people. That’s my perspective on this. 

English Is A Gift

But there’s a good side to it. You’re considering this as a gift, and then you are connecting with the world and you’re growing. But the sad part and the bad part is this, that you are considering English as a yardstick to just someone’s intellect. I’ve seen so many times, I see a person speaking in English and that person is communicating what he wants or she wants to communicate. And your understanding also, we are understanding each and every word, which is wrongly pronounced, the grammar which is wrongly used, but we are understanding the thought. Still, we will not accept it, acknowledge it, appreciate it just because it was spoken in bad English. 

Respect Thought, Intent, Not Language

It means you are giving more value to that language, which was given by British people, which is the output of this fact that we were ruled by these people for 200 years. So, I would say your patriotism, your respect is still towards British people if you are looking towards English like this. Because if you’re not, and if you’re respecting thought, then you’re respecting humanity. You’re not respecting language. You’re not respecting that slavery. And I’m very careful using the word slavery.

So, my perspective is this on English grammar. I agree that yes, you have to improve your grammar. If you are using one language, it’s your responsibility to speak the correct language. But I don’t agree to this point that you can speak or one can speak a hundred percent grammatically correct in any language, forget only English.

What is your perspective on this?

20 Comments

  1. Venugopal

    Yes, I do agree with your view point. We should respect the languages whether it is English, Hindi, Russian or any other language. Its a medium of connecting people. You are right that no one can speak any language with cent percent grammatically correct!

    Reply
    • GOVINDRAJAN P R

      Yes I Agree. Even in India, apart from Hindi , The Rajbhasha?, English language is helping us , to Unite ,the present moment. Let us not think of Past or future. To carry on the work and duty we have, I agree , English is advantageous. At the same time let us master our own languages and standardise it. One day our Langage can help and Unite the mankind…
      A dream…

      Reply
  2. CA Gopal Singh Negi

    Dear Praveen Ji, you are article is perfect. Due to mistake, fear…many people stop speaking. They feel inferiority complex.
    This hampers their outlook towards life, self-confidence.

    we respect speaker speaking in English even if his / her content is 3rd grade.

    Thanks for pointing right nerves of the society.

    Reply
    • Praveen Wadalkar

      Thank you for reading and sharing your feedback 🙂

      Reply
      • Settu K

        The barrier of fear comes when we open our mouth. I always relate English is foreign language and it is not for me and least bother. As you said, when I learn this, It is gift from The English and used to construct our constitution I have great respect on English and started to love. My perspective altered and the article gives power to see the new kind of world. Thank you Praveen ji.

        Reply
  3. Haresh Tinna

    It is general tendency that if you have liking towards something, can be language or any skill, one becomes perfect in that skill. Secondly what I have observed in my life, about those people who speak or write in English, commit mistake while speaking or grammaticaly wrong are eithe not much educated or they speak just for show off. If taken little interest one can be perfect. Very good example is famous crocket player Kapil Dev. When he played first cricket match he could hardly speak English. But later on he paid heed to English language alongwith his cricket i.e. content. That is my perspective!

    Reply
      • Karthiga

        Oh my. I don’t know what to say. Right from my school days ( past 20 years), I started attempting to speak in public and whenever I did so, I always felt this fear – what if I go wrong !!? I knew I was wrong to keep thinking side by side rather than completely involving in sharing my thoughts. Also, whenever I let go of this thought and spoke, automatically I spoke without making much mistake as well. Even when I first attended your session ji, I wondered how come you never worried about the language and just expressed your thoughts. I realise this is very important in public speaking. One fear that disturbs most of us is “what if I make a mistake”…Thanks you for this article ji.

        Reply
        • Swati

          Thanks for the article! I like the point language is just a vehicle. We should be willing to learn and improve but being obsessed with English language and judging anyone on this basis is wrong. We need to come out this mental slavery and create a safe space where we can share our thoughts, ideas, views, stories, opinions.

          Reply
    • Suchitra Bhandary

      It’s good to be conscious about our shortcomings, be it english grammar or english vocabulary and
      one should never stop learning as life never stops teaching, if one stops learning, one stop growing. As it is rightly said, the capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill and the willingness to learn is a choice. This is my perspective.
      Regards

      Reply
  4. Srinivas

    I really agree with your views.

    Reply
    • Suchitra

      Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language

      Reply
  5. Mahesh

    Knowingly or unknowingly we have been doing preferential judgement on people with English as yardstick. It’s a good read and eye-opener for Indians.

    Regards,
    Mahesh

    Reply

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