Our Unhealthy Obsession With English

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Our obsession with perfecting English is growing like a hideous monster. Suddenly, a good command over the language has become a pre requisite for securing jobs and doing well in life. Suddenly, an individual’s social standing is determined by how well he knows his grammar. It’s kinda strange to see people drift away their focus from acquiring skills to an unhealthy obsession with mastering the language. We keep forgetting that just a marginal proportion gets the privilege to attend English medium schools.  A much lower percentage has English as their mother tongue. It’s unacceptable to judge a person’s skill set on the basis of their fluency in the language.  The growing population of “grammar nazi’s” or “grammar snobs” makes it quite evident that it’s either good English or go home.

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A lot of us have become self-proclaimed perfectionists who take pride in scoffing about theres and theirs. What we keep forgetting is that no one bestowed on us the right to mock people for their pronunciation or holds them in high esteem for their perfect enunciation. It’s ridiculous to watch people publicly rectify someone’s grammar or pronunciation. At the end of the day, it’s just a language.  English is not our natural language. It has just assumed that title in the recent years. For a major part of the population, this is an acquired skill. I mean we don’t dismiss people’s ideas if they don’t know Hindi, then why give English an elevated status.

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I get it, globalization has somewhat made English indispensable for climbing the success ladder. However, this shouldn’t be forgotten that we come from a country whose mother tongue is not English. Publicly ridiculing an individual for their typos or mispronunciation is not always in their best interest. I think I would feel humiliated even if Mrs Sharma (my English professor) did this to me. Being rectified in public is that last thing we wanna be a part of.

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Judging a writer for poor English is kind of understandable. However, laughing off a charted accountant for not meeting your expectations of the language speaks of language elitism. An engineer should be appreciated for his knowledge of machines instead of being mocked for his inability to communicate well in English. Knowing a language better than others, in no sense, makes you superior to them.  Publicly disgracing someone for few bumps in their writing is highly condescending. I think it’s high time we shed off our cloaks of haughtiness and our hats of language elitism and give way to the fact that skills should matter more than vocabulary.  Even if a friend asks you to point out typos or a few misspelt words, do it gently and please don’t assume self-importance. They came to you for help not because you can mock them later in parties. Many of us have learnt the language by reading the words and not listening to their pronunciation. So, if something goes wrong, take it easy on them, you Mr. Know-it-all.

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