How Important Is It To Know English?

English is a complicated, confusing language, but can we live without it in this age of globalization? Unfortunately, no. There may be people around the world who survive with only their native languages, but on a global platform, knowing English definitely has its own advantages. Think about it, especially if you live in countries where Engish is the only language used. I don’t mean to say that you need a degree in English to survive, but I feel that everyone should have at least basic communication skills in this tongue.

Why am I advertising the English language today? Well, it’s because of a couple of incidents that occurred in my class this week. Before I get to the incidents though, let me tell you about my experience managing the classroom this week. My lead teacher was on a break and her absence made a lot of difference. The classroom was LOUD. I tried all my tactics — talking to the groups who were creating a ruckus, doing one-on-one sessions, taking on a stern tone, and finally giving up and requesting…to my exasperation, NOTHING worked.

To top off the already brewing chaos, a new boy, M, joined on the 1st of this month. He is just under 3-years old, has never been to a school before, is enrolled for the whole day (8:30-6:00)… and wait..there’s more… doesn’t know any English except for no, hungry, and a couple more words. I think he understands basic instructions when they are accompanied by gestures but other than that, communication was difficult. On his first day, he refused to eat or take a nap and kept repeating a phrase in his language (he was pointing outside, so maybe he was saying that he wanted to go home). You can’t really blame the boy… just imagine the situation from his perspective. Until the previous day, he was at home, with his parents, being fed, cuddled, etc. by them, and then all of a sudden, he is introduced to a strange environment with new people talking in a new language. Poor thing!

Another boy, E, has been with us for a few weeks now. He speaks only Mandarin but understands English. We have been working with him for some time now, teaching him the English words for fruits and vegetables, etc. And he has been learning them well too. A few days back, he spilled almost half of his lunch and very sweetly cleaned up his mess. I was feeding another child when E came to me and said something in Mandarin. I asked him to show me. He very sadly rubbed his tummy and repeated the line. I asked him if he was hungry, and he nodded yes. I felt really bad for him but was also relieved that we were at least able to communicate. I quickly gave him some snacks that we keep in the classroom and then he was fine.

This is why I have been canvassing the English language. Children these days are very sharp and I believe these preschoolers are the right age to be introduced to different languages. Our school has Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish classes for all and I have noticed that most of the older children have a good grasp of the basic words taught in all three languages. I have been told that I was enrolled in preschool when I was 2.5 years old; I knew only Malayalam and even went on to teach my Bengali teacher one word in Malayalam, ‘vellam’ (water). After I was exposed to school, English, and other languages, I began switching languages based on who was talking to me: Malayalam at home, English with friends/teachers, and Hindi with the maid. I am glad I was exposed to English and other languages from a young age, and am appreciative of the fact that I can now communicate well in three languages other than English.

Until I write again, give English a try while keeping a strong connection with your native tongue. Trust me, you’ll not regret it!

P.S. Hope we can help M and E learn English soon so that they can communicate better with us and their friends.

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4 thoughts on “How Important Is It To Know English?

  1. Reminded me of the song from the movie “Mozhi”, starting “Kaatrin mozhi”

    Language is not a barrier in communication, attitude definitely is:

    First example; when I try explaining some simple instructions to my mother in Malayalam (hard of hearing too), she comprehends if she is in a good mood and “refuses” to even listen otherwise.

    Second example; While working in the CIPLA Pharmaceuticals factory at Verna, Goa, our team had a Housekeeping Executive who was fluent in Marathi, Hindi and English, no Tamil though. There were a few cleaning crew that we ad taken from Chennai. One boy out of this knew only Tamil. This boy and the Executive had a wonderful communication chain that every instruction was executed correctly and in time. The boy rose fast to become a supervisor in another site.

    Third example; When Aparna was small girl of about 3 years, she used to understand only Malayalam since that is what we used to talk at home. She used to look blank when anyone spoke to her in any other language. Once she started schooling, the first Malayalam word that her Bengalee teacher learned was “Vellam” meaning water, since Aparna was frequently asking her for “Vellam”. Over a period of six months Aparna used different languages for different sets of people. To the maid servant who used to take her to school she used to converse in Hindi, to us at home in Malayalam and to friends coming home in English.

    Fourth example; A cousin of mine, on a motoring tour in France wanted to buy Petrol. The pump dispensers were only indicating a numbered grade of fuel and not the fuel type. He requested assistance from a French motorist, in English. That guy gave him a lecture about using French in France and went off. Finally someone indicated to him the correct fuel dispenser.

    In my view, learning English as a spoken language, drastically reduces the chances of an individual learning the other language of the land. I spent about 10 years in Andhra Pradesh, but had hardly learned conversational Telugu since I could manage with English and Hindi.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to this.

    First of all, being an Indian, the biggest challenge is that, all the Indian States speak a different language from the other.

    So, when I worked as a pre-school teacher, I faced similar situations on a daily basis.

    Trust me, it’s only for a couple of months. As uncle told above, there wouldn’t be a language barrier once we get along with the other person. We slowly start understanding their pattern, mannerisms and also learn to exchange a couple of words in both the languages.

    Having said this, perks of being an Indian is that (excuse me, if I am being too patriotic 😃) eventually we’ll become flexible and understand language in a different perspective. The true purpose of communication.

    I would like to support uncle’s view, on today’s generation learning only English. It’s a warning to the burial of our ancient classical languages. My child is a living example of this, who can think and speak only in English, where his parents can handle four to five languages easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree to what you say too, language has no barrier. The boys are already showing a lot of improvement.
      Also, I’m not saying one should only learn English, it’s important to know your native tongue too. Knowing both well would be ideal 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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