The English do not own English…
The statistics are out. Over 125 million Indians speak (and read and write) English. That is roughly twice the size of native English speakers in Britain (which is Great no more!). That makes us officially the owners of the language— the British speak an older dialect, that’s all. What about America? At this stage, I must refute a misguided attempt by the US to claim the title. Some of them even quote a cunning linguist called Chomsky* to support their claim. But it is hardly convincing. Yes, there are remarkable similarities between their native-tongue and English, but it can be extremely deceptive.
Take Football for example. In American Football the thingummy they call ‘ball’ is actually an ovoid! The players usually run around carrying the ball with them and using the foot is not even mandatory! If you cannot find consensus on something like Football, are we even speaking the same language? I once tried to explain Queen’s English to an American friend, who thought it was a code used by the LGBT community! Such is the difference between Queen’s English and Native-American, that for all translations they use a software called Microsoft Spell-check.
Be that as it may, I think it’s the right time to outsource the Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries to Bengaluru and Gurgaon!
… but the Indians do:
Our 125 million English speakers are not like that at all. They are so adept in Queen’s English that they speak it like their mother-tongue. The only problem is that they speak it too much like their mother-tongue. Recently our honourable President addressed the nation on TV. He was obviously saying something important, so I waited impatiently for the English translation. Half-way through the speech it suddenly struck me that he was actually delivering THE English version. Being well-educated, he spoke English like his mother-tongue — Bengali. Here is an approximate quotation from the address: “Phello sitijons, I aarge the yuth of India to embress the ispireet of innobhasen in ebhery filled of endabhor”. And it was good advice: “Fellow citizens, I urge the youth of India to embrace the spirit of innovation in every field of endeavour”. Once Lallu-ji, our former Railway Minister spoke in both English and Hindi over the national TV. The TV station was flooded with calls from the Southern viewers — “please could we have English sub-titles only whenever the minister speaks in English?” He too spoke English like his mother-tongue.
because Lord Macaulay outsourced it!
When Lord Macaulay “imposed” English education on the “uncivilised” Indians, he did not know that he had unleashed the outsourcing revolution; he did not know that Indians would buy up steel mills in England and transcribe medical records from India, either.
The Americans in America were losing jobs to India, because Indians spoke English and they didn’t. I heard that some Americans started signing up in an Indian Institute for English instruction, called “Speak easy”. Surely, the Americans wanted to retrieve lost jobs, I thought. Oops, I forgot that the Americans speak a different tongue. In America, a Speakeasy is a seller of contraband liquor— our friends were apparently looking for a “retro-bar”!
*Side-show: Noam Chomsky
I had always imagined that Chomsky was a Russian brand of short-eats.An educated friend pointed the error of my ways, and told me that Noam Chomsky is a bio-linguist who is aligned to the anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian-socialism schools of thought.
Wow! I am quite not sure what that means, but it almost certainly gives him licence to criticise anything about anybody! I want that job!
Here and there in this article, you may find a grain of truth. If you do succeed, go ahead and copy it— the author himself couldn’t find it!