It's all about Kanglish!
In my college, where the medium of instruction was English, nobody ever cared much for pronunciation. I grew up with no dilemma about whether to pronounce it as ‘di-lemma’ or ‘dye-lemma’; but very recently, I had to learn the difference between ‘e’ and ‘y’ sounds, ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds, long and short vowel sounds and so on. I can never forget that day when my six-year-old daughter taught me rules about pronunciation that no one ever tried to explain in all my schools.
We were living in Texas, USA and planning a trip home. “This ear also we are going to India in the summer, but this time we are going from the vest,” I told my daughter. In fact, I thought I had said, “This year also we are going to India in the summer, but this time we are going from the west.” We went home every summer by the Atlantic route to Bombay and then to our hometown via Bengaluru. For the first time, we were planning to fly over the Pacific and see how it would feel to cross the international dateline. She was also excited, except that I saw a smile on her face. When I asked her for an explanation, she had to answer, “Amma…you always mix up ‘y’ and ‘e’ sounds. ‘Y’ has the consonant sound of ‘ya’, ‘yaa’, ‘yi’, ‘yee’ etc in Kannada while ‘e’ has the vowel sound of ‘i’ and ‘ee’.” That was, indeed, enlightenment for me; am I glad that her Kannada ‘araLu mallige’ class at DFW Hindu Temple is helping me learn English pronunciation! What she pointed out was an inescapable reality, one which I could not ignore but take a stand on, working towards improving immediately and enthusiastically. I found a teacher in my six year old!
This was just the beginning. I realised that it is a challenge to unlearn my wrong pronunciation and practise the newly learnt correct ones! I kept observing how my Indian friends handle these subtleties in pronunciation. This is absolutely with no intention of offending or hurting anyone’s feelings but to help myself with further corrections.
It was Sunday evening when a friend dropped in with her little son to play with my daughter. “Would you like some fruit?” I said, offering watermelon to them. “No, thank you! My mother-in-law has come to leave (live) with us. We were seating (sitting) and watching two future (feature) filams (films/movies) back to back this afternoon. While watching we yate (ate) a lot of popcorn. I’m fool (full) and he is fool (full) too. In fact, my ice (eyes) are burning from continuous watching.”
Oops! These are totally different cases from the ones that I was looking for. “Today is the yelection (election) day at Indian Professionals’ Association. On my vay (way) I vent (went) there to ote (vote); that’s why I got delayed.” She didn’t disappointment me, after all!
“Can I borrow your daughter’s ellow (yellow) Bharatanatyam dress for my daughter? It is for a cultural programme for ‘International Night’ in her school next veek (week).” It was another friend on the phone! When I told her about our India trip and asked her to collect it before that, she very politely enquired, “Has she finished her eggjams (exams) and yewrything (everything)?”
Our neighbours were from Cuba. The most hilarious one was when our neighbour’s mom wanted to know whether we are going to India by sheep (ship). While it was natural for a Cuban to ask a question like that, I couldn’t control my laughter imagining myself riding on a sheep. Well, by the end of the day, I figured out that many of us whose native language is not English provide free entertainment with our pronunciation and late (let) people, including our own children, yenjoy (enjoy)!