Mind your language

Language matters

Communication today is not as much about language as about sound effects, realises Revathi Siva Kumar

“Haaku the dhaga into the needle,” coaxed Meenal, my 16-year-old neighbour.
“Ok, ruko ek minute,” said Aruna, her friend, moistening the thread and squinting into the eye. But all that she could push through a hole that day was her tongue.

Finally, they turned to me, but I was firm about two conditions. Firstly, I would thread the needle only if they framed the question either in English, Hindi or Kannada.
Secondly, they had to learn how to thread a needle.

But later, I realised that most kid-speak is like pushing that poor bit of thread into the eye of normal life — a hit-and-miss effort at managing. Or kaam chalaaoing. As children increasingly speak English but listen to the bhaashas at home and to Hindi in cinema and TV, their communication is not as much about language as about sound effects.

“Where is your Amma and Appa?” asked 10-year-old David, for instance.
“They is in the …oh!” I stopped and clicked my tongue. License to use a pan-national language has apparently meant bending a lot of rules.

But then again, why not? Isn’t modern life about adapting, evolving, I thought, despairingly. After all, you can smell a lot of languages in the conversations of the youth.

Sometimes, there are some confusions too. “Chakka” yelled cricket-loving Sunny, and knocked around wildly in his chair, while Pinky blushed and enquired nastily whether he planned to join the tribe.

“No, Sachin maaroed a chakka,” cried Sunny.
“Brave of him. Didn’t he…er…she…er… maaro back?”
And then there is the other side, the fresher inflexions from the New World. The other day, Manini, a US-returned teenager — who speaks a tongue that sounds suspiciously like English — came home for lunch.

After tucking into my careful spread, she sat back and sighed. “Cool,” she smiled. “That was like, um, like, so with it man. It was so like too much, you know, dude? Like you know?”

My heart sank. I couldn’t take so many unaccountable expletives together. “No,” I wailed, clutching at the last two words that sounded as if they meant what I thought they meant. “I don’t know, Manini.” I paused and then added fiercely, “In fact, bloody hell I don’t know what you mean. Can you talk to me in a language I understand, please?”

“LOL! Chill, dude,” said Manini, a bit bewildered. “Why do you scope off?”
I stopped and stared at her. “Look,” I began patiently. “I’m not, repeat, not scoping off — even if I don’t know what that means.”

I stopped. Why was I getting drawn into this, anyway?

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