She was from a small town, far away from the big metropolitan capital of the state. Till her 12th Standard, she studied in a Tamil medium school (The local language of that state). There on, she went to the only engineering college at the outskirts of her town. The sudden change in the medium of instruction was quite difficult for her at the beginning. Not that she didn’t like English, both English and Tamil were her favourite subjects at school. She got more marks than others in these two subjects. But back then, she only studied English as a subject. Now she was enrolled in an engineering course, in which she had to study all the subjects in English. Not only that, some of the words were too technical and too complicated. The only way she could absorb what was written in the text book was to translate the lines into Tamil. Every line. And then memorize the English lines. It was an arduous task, but slowly she picked up. But it was a huge task to even clear the examinations. Her professor would ask, “Don’t you know the meaning of chip set?” when she asked about it, and she would think ‘If all the technical books were available only in Tamil, you would struggle with even ‘Min Anjal‘ ‘, which was email in Tamil.
So, when she joined this job, she was impressed by the English that was so carelessly and fluently spoken by her colleagues. She was taken aback by the way they were asking questions and even talking with each other. She never heard anyone speak English like that, in her town. She was actually nervous about the presentation. There were even a couple of mock presentations done by her seniors, so that they could become familiar with the format. And one of the senior made such a beautiful presentation that everyone were stunned. It was not only about her language, but the confidence, the poise, the demeanour, the clarity, and what not!
After the presentation, she saw that senior in the cafeteria. She went and introduced herself and told what she thought about the presentation. They also discussed her background, how she was uncomfortable with the language and her nervousness about the first presentation that she had to give in English.
“I will give you an idea. Make a good presentation, let it be well researched and informative. On the day of the presentation, just go to the front and read it from the LCD projector screen. Just add a couple of points of your own in the middle”
“Can I get away with that?”
“Yes, as long as the presentation that you are going to give is technically informative, you can. I too started like that. Focus on the content, not the language. The purpose of a language is to enable us to express, and not hinder our expression”
Her respect for the senior grew even more. Focus on the content, not the language. For a small town girl, that was a huge consolation. She always thought that people were judged in the big cities only by their style of speaking English. She was however determined to make the utmost efforts to learn to speak good English.
She would, eventually.
She would even live to see the day when her kids would call her ‘Mamma’ instead of ‘Amma’. She would live to see the day when her friends would abuse the native language by mixing so many English words unnecessarily, while speaking the native language. She would live to see the day when the majority of the local population would ignore the rich literature available in thier language, forget contributing anything to it!
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