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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Of Language and Accents

People pick up accents from where they live and work. When people accuse you of faking an accent, they probably think that you are doing it on purpose and struggling behind it. But expressions and phrases can make their way into your vocabulary organically. It depends on the amount of interaction with the locals.

We were taught British pronunciation and spellings in school. But now, I need subtitles to understand thick British accents on TV. The nature of language is fluid. What was once yours can become foreign one day. Though Hannah Arendt once said in her famous interview: 'What remains? The language remains.' What happens to those who do not have the opportunity to continue learning their mother tongue? I see a lot of children born in the US conversing exclusively in  American English. Some might feel it is a cultural betrayal.

But I want to tell them- the kids are growing up in a different environment. Their teachers, friends, family friends speak a common language. If they choose to converse in American English, let them. If some day they feel the need to learn about their roots, they will. Of course, some people make sure the kids are exposed to their mother tongue. Since Hindi, Bengali, or Tamil is not taught in schools here, it means extra coaching. I admire the tenacity. But is it really essential to love your mother tongue first? Learn of course, but love? What if someone can converse better in a different language? I love reading Bengali literature, but that doesn't mean I have to treat the first language I learned in school (English) differently All are mediums to express my thoughts. And no matter how many words I use in what language, I never feel it is complete.

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