Learn English, but be proud of your Mother Tongue

Mother_LanguageThere is a popular story told of a young boy who grew up in a village, then moved to a slum in the city, and had just the bare minimum education possible, in his mother tongue. He obviously could not read or speak English. With difficulty he managed to get a job as an Attender in a reputed multinational company, and was working with great efficiency and to the satisfaction of his superiors. As the years went past, he noticed that everyone who had joined the company was getting promotions from one rank to another. One day he gathered up courage and went up to his Manager and asked him when he is likely to get a promotion. The Manager laughed at him, and said "you cannot speak or write one sentence of English. All work in this office is done in English. If you at least knew a little bit of English there was a chance that I would have made you a Dispatch Clerk or something like that. But with your lack of English knowledge, you will have to work only as an Attender".

The young man was extremely disappointed, and could not visualize a lifetime without promotion. So he took a risk and quit his job, went across to the pavement and became a street-side hawker. Being a hardworking and pleasant person, he managed to do very well and his business picked up. Eventually came the stage when he was the proprietor of a roaring multi-crore business. Friends advised him that he could expand further by taking bank loans. He approached the bank with his previous years' balance sheets and his business records. The bank manager was shocked to see that a person who does not even know English could have done so well in business, and remarked "I am so impressed with your achievements, sir. And I am wondering, if you have known English, how much more you would have progressed." The other person replied, "Illa, sir, if I had known English, probably today I would have been a Dispatch Clerk in XYZ company."

The moral of the story is that you need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and chart your path accordingly. It is a fact that English as a global language has acquired immense importance. It is also true that those who have studied in English medium, in "Convent" schools, have a head start over others who have studied in the local language. Yet, the fact remains that everyone can overcome these hurdles if there is a strong will to do so. Here are some

Tips to Overcome Lack of English Background:

  1. Start off by listening whenever people are conversing in English. Do not run away from them. Similarly, watch English programs on TV, particularly those where the accent is simple. Constant exposure will familiarize you.
  2. Learn some key words such as: okay, yes, thank you, that's good, tell me more about it, please explain further, I will try. Just start with using these words wherever possible, even if the conversation is in another language.
  3. Do not feel shy to talk in English, just because you are likely to make mistakes. The purpose of communication is to get across your views and information, not to impress the listener. In fact, ask the listener if he has any reservations about the way you are speaking English, and do not feel inferior to him.
  4. Whenever you hear an English word you do not understand, make a note of it and come back and check it out in a Dictionary. Then make sure you start using the word in your conversation.
  5. Tell some close friends to point out your mistakes when you speak in English, and make it a point to speak regularly with these friends in English.

If you are proud of your mother tongue, and treat English as another tool to enhance your skills and communication, you will be far more successful in learning the latter. Those who think of English as something "superior" get over-awed by it, and thus find it difficult to learn it. All languages are equally good, and if you know the local language, you should be proud of it. There is so much more we can convey at the feeling level in our mother tongue. Gaining a working knowledge of English should be a continuous process, and over a period of time you will realize that you can speak as well as another person who learnt that language as a child. And as you develop and speak with confidence, no one will even notice if you are making mistakes here and there. Just go ahead and start – today!

Dr. Ali Khwaja

Career Guidance

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