Stories about English language

I think, pray and speak in English, so why should I speak to my children in Urdu?

My twins are almost three-years-old and they can’t speak Urdu, my ‘mother tongue’. They hear it being spoken around the house, and occasionally I may try to converse with them in Urdu but truth be told, it doesn’t come naturally. As first-time parents, we did get the infamous lecture that we should only speak to our children in Urdu or else they will never be able to speak the language. People would say, “Don’t worry, they will learn English at school but you must speak to them in Urdu.” The common fear is that our children will drift away from their cultural heritage. Most people believe that language is what will keep our ...

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Hindi Medium proves that English is still the language of the colonisers, except the elite are the colonisers now

When you think of language, you think in a language. For me, it’s English. It always has been. Sometimes, I wonder if my thoughts were in another language, would I be different? Would my life have turned out differently? Perhaps. You never know, that’s the thing. Hindi Medium made me realise that language has the power to change. I see it every day around me. I see it at work when I try to communicate in Urdu but my vocabulary falls short. I used to see it in school, when people mocked that one kid for speaking in Urdu because God forbid, ...

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Dictators like Rodrigo Duterte need to be careful when they “joke” about using rape as a weapon

The world works in strange ways and the more things change, the more they stay the same. After decades, nay centuries of conflict, it seems the world had finally turned the corner in the 90s. Yes, there was a lot still to be done, but we seemed to be moving in the right direction. The cold war had ended, the European Union (EU) took concrete shape, and globalisation was taking root all over. Free trade and the communication revolution were turning the world into a global village. Perhaps for the first time in human history, democracy and human rights were regarded as supreme and inviolable in ...

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When will Pakistan stop mocking people for speaking imperfect English?

Recently, a video went viral on social media of a group of girls in which one of them spoke a misplaced English phrase. The results of this innocent error by that girl were catastrophic. It soon became a phenomenon on the internet with the girl being subject to several jokes and derogatory comments. Following this, news came that the girl has not been attending college due to this incident. This represents two chronic problems in our society; first, the issue of cyber-bullying, and second, our obsession with the colonised tongue. Cyber-bullying is reprehensible, but the underlying issue is that we give English ...

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A servant’s dream; to be like Chris Mukhtar

“Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” – Imam Hussain (AS) “Let’s go from a shorter way today. Take the second left, next to the barber shop.” “Yes sir.” As they turned, a group of mud houses came in sight, where children seem to be playing the same games they were years ago. She smiled. She glued herself to the right window and tried to take in each expression as a car passed with two inquiring eyes. The car slowed down as the road suddenly thinned and her sight got stuck with an oddity. A house unlike any ...

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Should school administrators be allowed to harass students over non-payment of fees?

While winding up the lesson, the teacher turned towards the clock to check the time – there were 20 minutes remaining. Opting for a pop quiz, he asked everyone to take out a rough sheet of paper. One of the students eagerly did so – for history was her favourite subject – but as she scribbled the answer ‘Treaty of Versailles’ to the question asked by the teacher, she saw terror approaching from the corner of her eyes. She heard the dreaded words, “Please step outside and bring your diary along.” And quietly moved toward the door while all the students stared ...

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The English language is dying and we are the ones slitting its throat

Language shapes the way we think. It’s a system of investigation of reality, and control of reality. Today, so many of us live for language. It is our mode of communication, words are how we express what we mean, want, and desire. Actions do not speak louder. Words are direct, and distinct. But what happens when they aren’t anymore? What happens when words begin to diminish into abbreviations and sentences into acronyms? People blame the millennials, they always do. But this hasn’t solely plagued our generation. I was re-reading George Orwell’s 1984 for a class last semester. I realised that in the world of ...

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My love affair with language (barriers) in Beijing

Beijing is a heady place for a tourist who can’t speak Mandarin. This was the uncontrived truth that surfaced during long conversations with friends and extensive Google searches on what to expect from the metropolis. I had been warned that the city’s sights, sounds, smells and flavours would not appeal to me unless the pull of a common language could bind me to them. As my trepidation grew into sheer terror, I contemplated the possibility of learning a few words in Mandarin to placate my fears and fit into my new orbit. Before I had boarded the six-hour flight from Karachi ...

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Stop saying ‘I feel like’

In American politics, few forces are more powerful than a voter’s vague intuition.  “I support Donald Trump because I feel like he is a doer,” a senior at the University of South Carolina told Cosmopolitan. “Personally, I feel like Bernie Sanders is too idealistic,” a Yale student explained to a reporter in Florida. At a Ted Cruz rally in Wisconsin in April, a Cruz fan declared, “I feel like I can trust that he will keep his promises.” These people don’t think, believe or reckon. They “feel like.” Listen for this phrase and you’ll hear it everywhere, inside and outside politics. This reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch ...

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David Cameron, why did you single out Muslim women?

The English language is a very peculiar thing. It can be difficult to grapple with its eccentric rules of grammar, punctuation and pronunciation. However it is a language that is fast becoming a necessary modicum of communication. The English language pervades social media, popular songs and movies and has even become a pre-requisite skill that one has to obtain before moving to the West. I definitely agree that if someone from Pakistan or any other country, moves to the United States or England, they must have a basic idea of what the language entails, not because learning English will shed ...

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