Stories about English language

Mr Spock, may ye live long, dear friend, and prosper, in eternity

The Star Trek series, as with all offerings produced in the ambitious 60’s and 70’s to define the newly construed sci-fi genre, attempted the most arduous task of instigating a solemn courtship; that between imagination and high-tech innovation (which was projected to arise in the future). These emphatic productions, both in print and electronic media, called upon people to stretch their neurons, and envision a world of endless possibility; where advancements in technology enabled mankind to solve its most fundamental, age-old maladies – such as aging, warfare, disease, as well as lack of unity. Photo: Star Trek ...

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Am I a ‘ganwaar’ if I speak in Punjabi?

Over the last few weeks, I have been meeting children from different parts of Punjab. They ranged in age between three and five years and included children of my friends and extended family. I was pleasantly surprised to hear these kids speaking in Punjabi. Some of the phrases that I recall hearing them use are, “Kithay chalay o?” (Where are you off to?) “Aa ki aey?” (What is this?) “Ki karde paye o?” (What are you doing?) Punjabi is the most widely spoken language across Pakistan. However, from what I have seen, most of the people in Punjab – especially those living in the urban centres – do ...

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‘Abay yaar’, who betrayed Urdu?

There is a large number of modern, educated people in Pakistan that are blind to an entire area of literature, beginning with the first Urdu novel written by Deputy Nazir Ahmed back in the 1800s to anything written in the Urdu newspapers today. Not only are they completely oblivious, but this educated class also looks down upon the mother language and anything associated with it. To me, it seems that it’s not their fault. For every one of them, somewhere along the line, Urdu lost its value and respect in their eyes. This is how I experienced it. I remember very vividly the day I first used the word ...

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I am Pakistani, whether I speak Urdu or Punjabi

We are not a sitar with a single string, and our music takes more than one chord to make. We are a convergence of languages and cultures, all of which are simply too lustrous to be overshadowed by any single one. Yet Urdu is not considered a language; it is an apparatus used to measure patriotism. It is a test that is used to verify one’s allegiance to our green and white flag. Isn’t this an awkward status to have bestowed upon Urdu, considering hardly eight percent of Pakistanis speak it as their mother tongue? On the other hand, Punjabi happens to be the first language ...

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Twitter, Facebook and Rap music are “klling da English lang”!

“LOL, LMFAO, Congo, TTYL” For those of us born before the 80s, this would probably seem like an alien language or could lead to the assumption that the sender of the message has gone nuts. Prepare yourself, my literate friends – this is the ‘new groove’. This is what they ‘dig’ these days. Apparently, abbreviations have become our friends and we don’t let any chance slip from using them. Unfortunately, some of these actually end up being more confusing than helpful and annoy the hell out of a lot of people, including myself. The younger generation has made a short form for everything they ...

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Meera ji, take a chill pill, please

The list of things wrong with Pakistan, today: corruption, terrorism, a crumbling state structure, the energy crisis, sectarian violence, poverty, lack of infrastructural development, brain drain, increasing foreign debt, illiteracy, unemployment, mehngai (inflation), paani ki qami (water scarcity), roads pe traffic aur Meera ji ki English (traffic on the roads and Meera ji’s English)…Wait, what?! In her own words, Meera began her career in the entertainment industry in 1995. In just 18 years, she has somehow managed to become an integral part of the Pakistani entertainment industry. Every other person on the street will know who she is. Hers’ is the kind of fame ...

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Yorkshire: Where trays are ‘chrays’ and water is ‘wa-er’

One day, on our way home from school, my son asked me why English boys pronounce jacket potato as ‘jakei po-A-o.’ I didn’t have an appropriate, grammatical explanation for this very rational question. However, what I do know now is that north east England is famous for its English accent and is commonly referred to as the “drop T area”. Locals here conveniently forget to pronounce the alphabet ‘T’ while conversing. So, words such as ‘bottle’ become ‘bo—el’ and water become ‘wa—er’. Albeit, this might sound entertaining and funny, it can be a real nuisance for immigrants like myself. When I ...

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‘Halal’ education in Pakistan: When ‘pig’ in a nursery rhyme is taboo

As certain words and concepts in English are out of their range of experience, my students, coming from an underprivileged background, find it difficult to understand or accept them. With English nursery rhymes for example, since Jack was remiss enough to break his crown, the girls thought he and Jill were king and queen, until I explained otherwise.  Humpty Dumpty on the other hand continues to be viewed with deep distrust, however much I pleaded his cause. It isn’t, after all, normal to be an egg person. The resultant doubt of his being quite kosher creates a degree of disquiet. If ever Humpty wanders ...

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Meera ji won me over, with her English and her heart!

As a child and a youngster, I barely knew that there was more to life than using your proficiency in English as a status symbol. I was born and raised in a family where the accuracy of your English was the most important value. After an exhausting and detailed process of school selection, I was put in a schooling system that charged my parents a monthly fee exceeding grocery and food expenses for the entire house. The top family fact was repeated every other day for our benefit: “Ammi holds a Masters degree in English Literature!” Even around me, rich farmers wanted their offspring to ...

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