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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

04 September 2003

Last week, Hasan Suroor, Hindu’s correspondent in London, had discussed in his dispatch for Edit page, about the flexibility of English language. Citing a case of a cartoon in Times, where a school boy flaunts his exam result card and says, “ I done good in English”, Hasan argues that the reason for the decline in the language is the extreme flexibility of the language in accommodating all kinds of regional flavours. “English has become a victim of its own success”, Hasan points out.

Well. it is an interesting topic for a debate. How much a language can accommodate itself to modification, crossing the barriers of socio- geographic terrains? There are people, like Hasan, who fear that the language loses its original spirit when it gets adulterated too much with local flavours. So much so that English spoken in one region may not be understood in another region – both may be English though.

In a way I agree with that point of Hasan. That too much “adulteration” –( btw, can anyone suggest a better word? The word sounds too “criminal” J -) can disfigure the language. But then I also believe that language essentially is a tool to communicate. So how much elasticity should be there to accommodate regional adaptations? What determines the flexibility? If a language is too rigid, I feel it would not grow. English has proved that how much a language could grow by adapting all kinds of regional words.

OK. “I done good in English” might sound jarring to puritans. But the boy has effectively communicated his emotions. It is indeed more important.

However there can be a solution to remain grammatically correct and be effectively communicative too. Just train the kids to make good English – or for that matter any language - a habit. So that even in emotional outbursts, “the Queen’s English” or the grammatically correct language spills out.

P.S: This posting may not be in perfect English. But then, you know that I am taking all liberties with the languageJ

Btw, talking about language, check out my interview with Muthu Nedumaran of Murasu Anjal.


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