Why are we killing our language? - II

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 15 Apr 2018 10:44:16






ViSITING a village some time ago to meet a farmer friend was a very revealing experience. We were together in college, after which he went back to his village to work on his family farm and I joined the urban pursuit of journalism. Our friendship has continued, and we keep visiting each other occasionally. On each of my visits to his farm, I get exposed to a very rewarding experience -- of my friend’s family (all of them) using very fine Marathi even in day-to-day conversation. They use graceful words with fine sounds, fine meanings, and weave those in fine sentences. Talking to them, including youngsters, is a very happy experience as it gives me a feeling of completeness of expression. Even as a youngster talks of a pleasant evening, he picks up words that have a certain lilt, certain gilt. 

Once, long ago, I asked my friend about the fine expression which his entire family commanded. He said, “Friend, my father insists even today -- he is ninety-plus in years -- that we do not abuse words since they are precious. He insists that we think and talk so that we make a fine expression. And all of us agree. We do not consider Father’s insistence as his fetish; we consider this as a family tradition which
he wishes to preserve and promote.”

As a boy born in a similar family, I realise what my friend says. As children, we, too, were encouraged by our parents not to use any word wrongly. Our family had a culture of Sanskrit, which led us into a culture of fine language as such. Our parents insisted that we used fine and accurate words, that we added a literary touch to whatever we wished to say, that we read fine quality books of any language, that we used crisp but richly constructed Sentences in our school and college essays. Like does my friend, we also treated our parents’ insistence not as their fetish but as their passion. We really respect that, even though our parents are long gone.

This is the point I wish to make persistently today -- the family being the first school in which we get introduced to language. Before the child can even start speaking, he has already learnt meaning of a vast number of words as he hears those from the elders. When a child goes to the school at three-and-a-half years of age, he, therefore, has a vocabulary of at least 3,500 words (which he has picked up from casual family conversations). If the family speaks a fine language, the child, too, picks up the same. And if the kid goes to a truly good school, he learns language still better. He learns to attach a correct significance to the choice of his words as he speaks or writes.

Unfortunately, such insistence on using a fine expression is not available in larger numbers of families. And with a new lingo emerging out of our senseless usage of social media and instant messaging, we are beginning to lose whatever we really knew by way of a fine expression. This is the trouble with today’s society.

I cannot part with this edition of ‘Loud Thinking’
without recalling how my grandmother often corrected us if we made a mistake in using proper words set in proper grammar. When once I used a wrong word which carried a rather savage meaning, Grandmother just gave me a tight slap on the left cheek. Whenever an inaccurate word slips out of me, I remember that slap.
Unfortunately, there are not many in our society today to deliver that one tight slap to us if we happen to use inaccurate language.