Monday, October 19, 2009

One-language woman

I'm language-learning-phobic.
I do admit it.

My grandfather spoke Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Pashto and English fluently. He translated Sanskrit with ease. My parents came from different ethnic language backgrounds and were, at least, tri-lingual. I have cousins, younger than me, who are in raptures over Spanish literature.

Someone forgot to hand me the language genes. You have to agree, it's unfair.

I understand that bloodpools have minds of their own, and genetic ancestry is really not a matter of conscious choice (I'm quite sure I would've chosen green eyes, longer fingers, slender knees etc.) But in this illustrous lineage of language lovers, I stand quite alone and quite awed at the sound of my family pattering off in other tongues.

I grew up speaking English and I love English. I dream in English, write poetry in English, sob on my knees on those heart-breaking days, in English, abuse mad drivers on Delhi roads, in English and yes, even conduct monologues (or would that be dialogues?) with my inner self in English.

When angels speak to me, they whisper in English and when gods, goddesses and gurus have paid dream visits, they clearly know what works. Their divine words of reassurance ring sweetly, not in celestial Sanskrit, but in the language of the monarch of England.

Certain cousins of mine, MAKE me speak Hindi just so they can laugh at me. I must put in that this is a tad offensive to our glowing family inheritance - this parading of my ignorance. It would be far better if I were just passed off as a quirk, a strange by-product who still can't get masculine and feminine gender straight in Hindi. (Yeah, yeah cousins...I know ya won't stop!)

I remember living in Phuket for six months in near total monastic silence. My colleagues spoke minimal English: "Hello, how are you?" "Have you had your lunch?" "Okay, have a nice day."
I kid you not. That was the word-fare I survived on for weeks. I obviously blew up all my money on phone calls just so I could HEAR half hour a day of grammatically accurate English, with enough verbs, nouns, pronouns and adjectives thrown in to make me float on a cloud of joy.

I refused to learn Thai. I just couldn't get myself to do it. I had a sneaky suspicion that even if I DID learn the language, conversation would still revolve around "Hi, how are you?" "Have you had your lunch?" "Okay, have a nice day."

Clearly not motivating enough for a language-learner-phobic.

So, I've come to realise that I must just accept that I'm a one-language woman; that when I speak to my school kids in Hindi, they will giggle; that when I address an audience in Hindi, I will be translating in my head, and still using 50% English.

So, I've come to realise, that English is just intimately tied into my brain neurons and triggers emotion, impulses, images and reactions like no other language can. We are intertwined in an intricate web of sounds and words that not even an ethnic tongue has managed to unweave.

So I've come to realise, it's me and English.
till death do us part.

1 comment:

Eye of the Needle said...

Do our thoughts really have a language, I tried to visualize internally how words come when we think at a sub-conscious level, and I still did not get an answer in what language I was thinking....