“Engleesh” – Yes that was the way I pronounced “English” a little less than 10 years ago. English was merely an examination subject to me; the one where I couldn’t earn the best marks by mugging alone. I was a nerd at school, the sort of database where my friends checked for answers regarding general issues.
I was schooled in arguably the best English Institution in the place, but what I excelled was in Malayalam, my mother-tongue. In a school known for its pomp and show, I was alien to the world of English-speaking parents.
I had put down my name for an English essay writing competition, and others fully expected me to win it, simply because I knew well about current events. To be honest, I did too! I wrote in all I knew, and probably used more papers than the others. But then I never knew it was not only your knowledge, but your language mattered as well. I was heart-broken. At the same time there was an elocution competition.I was disappointed by my abysmal performance. I couldn’t complete my thoughts, and was left searching for words. I was shocked by the way those students whom I never thought to perform well, doing far better than me. I had the knowledge, they knew the language. I was ashamed. I vowed to myself I would never participate again.
The same year, a class test. And I the topper of my class, scored less in English than a girl who keeps getting low grades in subjects. I am not one to fret over marks, but that memory stays fresh as it was definitely a surprise.
All the while, I kept doing well in Malayalam, my mother-tongue. I loved reading Malayalam books, and penned well in the language. I was a good speaker of the language as well!
About a year later, the Harry Potter frenzy had caught up with many in my school, but despite being an avid reader, I was ignorant of the fact as I never showed interest in English books. It was then that an abridged translated story of the first part of Harry Potter series featured in one of those nerdy magazines I read at the time. I remember being glued to it.
I didn’t know it then that my life had changed forever.
I asked my parents to get me the series, and within days, it was here.
Though I knew the gist of the story, it was hard getting through the initial pages. I had to sit with a dictionary beside me and I found myself searching for words like Muggles and as I did not know about neologism then. I figured probably my dictionary was inadequate. However, I chugged on as I could, and by the end of the first book, I was a transformed self! You wouldn’t believe how much my language changed since Harry Potter. I don’t attribute it to reading Harry Potter alone, but it was certainly the torch which threw light onto the world of English for me. Since then, I became an English writer, speaker – not one to boast of, but not bad all the same.
In my final year of school, I was made to say a random speech in English, about my thoughts on the lesson. To my astonishment, I did quite well, which made me happy and proud. I never knew I had it in me to speak so well! I made a mental note that instant that I was going to participate in the upcoming English elocution. Being a student of this amazing institution, known for its excellence in English, and coming out of it with no credits in the language, would be bad. I decided to give it a try. I knew that my language was not at the same level than the others, so I began equipping myself. Some quotes, new phrases.. I found myself poring over a dictionary all the time. And the event day came. The topic was one in which I prepared on. I was happy. I made an excellent start quoting some famous poet, and spoke without much difficulty, and ended rather well. I was happy to have participated. I proved my worth. My friends said I did quite well. As I was the last participant, I couldn’t listen to how my fellow participants spoke. So I couldn’t judge myself. And the results. Teachers were vouching for their personal favourites, and I was alone by myself. I was not expecting one for myself either. I simply wanted to know who won. “Third place to No. 8, second place to No. 13, and first place to No. 19!!”, said the judges. “Who’s no. 19?”, everyone wanted to know.
Ahem, it was me folks!!
P.S.: Since then I abandoned my fears of English, and became confident in handling the language. And currently, I am editorial staff of the English-section (not Malayalam!) of the college Magazine! I handle both the languages now, but with so much ease. Confidence does a whole world of good!
P.S. 2: I know it is late for this, but Happy New Year fellow bloggers! Hope you have a great year ahead!