At least Learn English!- The grammar of social status.


The other day while scrolling through Facebook mindlessly, I came across the profile of a seemingly popular girl who had posted the screenshot of her conversation with a guy. While the guy was trying his best to convince her to date him, he was falling short of proper grammar. The girl, to make up for his lack of wit, responded to him with ‘Atleast learn ENGLISH!!’. And the conversation was done. That post got over 650 likes on Facebook, and all the fellow Facebook friends were fawning over her ‘witty’ response. Which, by the way, was blunt and far from witty. But Facebook has the potential to make the most bovine of contents go viral, so I’m not surprised.

Now I have nothing personal against this girl because I have done this too, at some point of time in the past, when I thought, knowing a little bit of English was enough to belittle anyone who was weak at it. I’m ashamed to have done it. No, just being marginally better at English doesn’t automatically make me cool, does not give you and me the license to be brash about it and rub it off as a subtle status symbol . That makes us unthoughtful  douche-bags!

What do we know about the other person to mock him on the basis of poor grammar? We’re privileged enough to go to an English medium school, alright. We ought to be thankful about it and not bully people who perhaps, didn’t have the same privileges or couldn’t grasp the language well up to the workable standards. Heck, India is still struggling to provide basic education to most of it’s citizen but here we are, mocking people based on one language, irrespective of what he/she might be proficient at. Not everyone is crazy about English language,y’know? I personally know people who are extremely talented in other fields of art, music, mathematics, computer, history, aeronautics but are weak in English. Does that give me the right to think that I’m superior to them? Hell, no!

The linguistic bigotry isn’t just limited to the dating scene. I’m sure you’d have made fun of your professors for pronouncing a word wrong, or cringed a little when your parents couldn’t be fluent in English in front of your friends. Do you see what just one language is doing to our ego?

Nobody cares about Hindi or the regional languages anymore. I mean, I have horrible hindi grammar, but people call me ‘cute’ for the weirdass way I talk in hindi. Wonder what would’ve happened if suddenly Mathematics or Physics became the benchmark of social status instead of English? Where would you hide then, smarty pants?

 

I hate to sound like the ancient turtle of wisdom but I’m trying to make you aware of what you might subconsciously be a part of. It’s easy to just follow the ‘atleast learn english’  clan because all the cool kids around you are part of it. But, knowledge is supposed to make you humble, not an arrogant schmuck. Also, in all lighthearted-ness if a North Indian dude can attempt to melt Bengali hearts with a broken ‘Ami tumake bhalobachi’ and ‘machbhaat’  then why do the same people get furious with a broken ‘hey pls friendsip me’ ?

 

 

25 Replies to “At least Learn English!- The grammar of social status.”

  1. Very well pointed out priyanka. I have personally seen people straining themselves to watch english movies/shows, listen to English music,(irrespective of the fact they enjoy it, or not) just to make themselves a part of their ‘cool’ friend circle. The worse part is, the so called ‘friends’ point out and make fun, while this person struggles to get involved in their conversation.

    1. Hi Neha, I know these incidents are extremely common and easy to overlook if not taken a moment to think about how it’s a reflection of social status, these days. I was one of them too, in the past, I didn’t even realize it that this was horrible because everyone around me agreed and were actively involved.

  2. there wud not be a better article to start of the day for a ” wall topke school palano bengali medium guy”…who once used to hesitate to talk to the ccd or kfc guy in front of their frnz…not do defame any job though but those ppl used to speak better english than him…??

  3. And …. Then there are these bartenders.
    The other day I was so drunk I could barely read the menu . So I just wanted a short description of some of the dishes….. And there he was describing finger chips in the most American accent EVER
    I know you have been practicing that for weeks on end and you have done nice.
    But why am I to pay a 12% service charge for listening to jargon and getting bewildered and uncomfortable in my chair?
    So… Now I follow this rule.
    If I am in Bengal … And end up in a restaurant or pub in Bengal… I WILL speak to you in Bengali….. And you better respond in the same language!
    Byas!

    1. Haha, that cracked me up Riju! Anyway I think if I’m talking to a person in one language and the other person replies in another language just to sound a little superior, it’s rude!
      About the bartenders though, they might have a language protocol, I can’t say for sure, but attending to a customer in the same language as he is speaking would be the most polite thing to do!

  4. One of many best posts so far ?? I liked almost every posts tho and I’m not surprised with what you’ve observed on Facebook. The reason why I barely come on Facebook these days. People just get on there to spur hate and belittle people. No wonder people having anxiety issues and mental healt issues just cos they think they’re not loved but hated by most. The impact is real not just for teens but for adults too.

    Best wishes ?

  5. Using ‘proficiency in English’ as a measure of socioeconomic class is the core issue here. In India, there is a correlation (particularly in our generation)-thus it works. This is more pronounced in dating, as people are more concerned with your class there.
    Living in Europe, I have seen a lot of Indian girls judging Indians on their English, but not South Europeans- as ‘proficiency in English’ is pretty unrelated to class for a Spanish guy.
    Other cultures use other measures for judging class, though they do it more silently than Indians. Your French pronunciation, your taste in opera, your wine-cheese pairing. Posting screenshots on fb is total assholery, though.
    My usual response to someone pointing out flaws in my English is: ‘Yeah, I am a Grammar Jew, deal with it’. Works well everywhere, unless I am in Germany 🙂

    1. Haha, smart thing to say to fellow Grammar-Nazis.
      Also, makes me wonder if I should do a post on the less-talked-about,ridiculous criteria that each country has for deciding social status! Interesting stuff to research about, definitely.

      1. I guess, in our generation, due to increased mobility people don’t really know the traditional markers well enough. So new markers will emerge- Instagram, travel photography, personalised gifts, exotic food, etc. Thankfully those are comparatively cheap in real value, thus enabling us to pass off premium mediocrity as classy even when we are cash strapped. Cleverer ones can even turn non-classy stuff into something classy by adding a dose of nostalgia. ? After all, it’s easier pretending to be a sapiosexual foodie on Instagram than to really appreciate ballet.

        1. Digital media has made the monotony and boredom of everyday life, appear glamorous. The competition really is about how glossy the representation of a content is, than the actual content. Sapiosexual foodie, therefore.

  6. Great article! Sums up one thought I always have on my mind [or maybe in my mind, bare the grammar please ;-)] – when a baby wants something, it CRIES, unaware of any specific language, so why cringe over it when you grow up? And if you cringe, then maybe you don’t grow up at all!

    P. S. New reader here who would like to know why this damsel is in denial mode

  7. দারুন লিখেছো। লিখতে থাজো। সেন্স অ্যান্ড সেন্সিবিলিটির বড়োই অভাব আজকাল চারিদিকে। গাবাদি সব ফেসবুক স্ট্যাটাসই তো লেখালিখি আর কমিউনিকেশনের অভিজ্ঞতাকে “ট্রিভিয়ালাইজড” করে রেখেছে আজকাল।

    শুভেচ্ছা, লিখতে থাকো।

  8. It is refreshing to see someone actually figuring out how puny it is of them to belittle someone based on a stupid language.

    An interesting take i picked up from the comments, to always respond to someone in the language they speak. I guess I usually do that but none the less, it should be a norm for all communications.

    PS: I mess up here and there 😀

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