English Medium Dude

I was watching the ‘Lux Awards’ with my mom, something like  the  Pakistani Oscars.  They give out awards for acting, fashion, makeup and other things.

A good portion of the award show was conducted in English which I thought was weird.  Urdu is the national language and is spoken in offices and businesses.  So what could possibly be the reason for speaking in English?

This brought me to another trend I’ve noticed which is when I come across an aunty or uncle who insists on replying to me in english, despite the fact I am speaking to them in Urdu.  I refuse to believe the fact that that is what they are comfortable speaking (especially if your English has a thick Desi accent).

I can understand how English may be a sign of modernity and literacy.  Convent schools and Pakistani’s attending universities abroad give the locals a ‘classy’ and a ‘distinguished’ impression.  But does being educated or amongst the elite mean we must drop the core of our culture, our language? Or does it mean that speaking Urdu is a sign of backwardness or of being low-class?

After thinking about all this I started to carefully notice how much Urdu  I use on a daily basis.  There are only a handful of people with whom I speak solely Urdu to.  This thought made me sad and question why I don’t speak Urdu more often.

I feel very comfortable conversing in Urdu, as a matter of fact I feel Urdu has a wider selection of descriptive words.  Therefore at times it is easier to pinpoint or talk in grave detail in Urdu.  Sadly, my husband feels more comfortable talking in English, and it has been a work in progress to shift to Urdu…slowly but surely!  If I don’t speak it then I certainly can’t expect my son to speak it.

So I can understand that American-Pakistanis born and raised here may naturally feel more comfortable speaking English.  However, why the natives of Pakistan?

I can imagine the youth thinking its the ‘cool’ thing to do, but it is rather silly when you see grown adults giving interviews and comments in English.  It may perhaps be the issue of an inferior complexity?

I recall an incident in Pakistan when I was waiting for an order from McDonalds.  It was taking far too long and I had gone up twice to ask about the order and would instead receive a prompt and rude reply.  The third time I went up I decided to switch to English, “Excuse me I have been waiting forever, when will my food be ready?”

Off the workers went and brought me my order in a jiffy.  Had I known English would jumpstart my order, I would have resorted to it in the first place.

Urdu is one of the few things I like about my Pakistani culture, it is something I wouldn’t want to lose.  I think it is something we should all hold on to and try to speak it as much as we can.  In my opinion if we can carry both English and Urdu, then that is a sign of both intellect and balancing diversity.

Imagine if our grandchildren knew only English? Meaning in this generation we have a fair share of people who ‘understand’ it but can’t ‘speak’ it, but just imagine if they couldn’t even do that.  How boring would that be?

I was visiting Pakistan and my 4 year old cousin requested I say something in English, so of course I asked her the basic stuff such as name age etc. With a tone of disappointment she asked if that was all that I knew….I nodded and asked her how much did she know?

In response she said, “tube light, spoon, table, fork, books and dolls”.  I gave her a look of astonishment and a big “WOW!”

Sochnay ki baat hai….(something to think about…)

2 thoughts on “English Medium Dude

  1. This is a great article; I loved your opinion about it. However, as you know English is an international language, even Pakistan’s court language is English, and only 1% people in Pakistan can understand it. I know it is funny, but the government in Pakistan praises English. Almost all the elite areas prefer talking in English. Students are being forced to speak English, just to raise the school’s standard. In most of the offices and businesses prefer to see English fluency. There are urdu keyboards, but for sure not a single pakistani knows how to use it. Everyone types in English letter, even if they are talking in Urdu. On the contrary, Arabs prefer to use arabic letters mostly. I observed that people in Pakistan are more comfortable to talk in “Urdulish”. Yes, it is same as like Spanglish. Even I myself too.

  2. Abeer I appreciate you bringing up this topic and understand your viewpoint. I am strictly speaking about the Pakistani social scene. I think there is a time, place, and audience for just Urdu, just English or a mix of both.

    I practice speaking Urdu with my husband because I want to correct my pronunciation, so that I can teach my son. Likewise maybe people in Pakistan are doing the same with English???

    But I also feel at times people speak it (at all different levels) because they feel it is fashionable and want to feel apart if the Pakistani in crowd.

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