What has gone wrong with our speech
Last week I wrote a blog about Ameen Sayani, a legend of the broadcasting world. The overwhelming response I got has prompted me to share with you how I feel about the way people have started speaking. There is no chasteness in speech and it is a hybrid mixture of thick, heavy and sing song accents. There is no purity of either language or pronunciation. It appears that each word has been chewed and flattened.
I wonder what schools are doing about this. But at parent teachers meet whenever such a subject comes up, many upstarts try to dismiss the corrective measures on the plea that “India has a right to hinglish’’. I do not know what hinglish is all about since it is neither Hindi nor English. It is something our children should not learn. They should know English, Hindi or any other language.
It has never been my case that one should speak in a particular language. But whenever you speak in whatever language, you must try to at least speak the language correctly. Some years ago, I was asked to judge a debate where over 65 branches of Delhi Public School ( English medium) participated. I was appalled that most of the youngsters, mostly class 11 and 12 students spoke English in a sing song manner and wondered what had gone wrong with the teachers in schools. I do not know whether it is fair to blame it only on the English teachers in an English medium institution since parents, news anchors all speak English or Hindi (barring very few) in the manner in which it should not be spoken.
When I was growing up, we were always told that if you have to perfect your pronunciation or diction in English listen to Melville D’Mellow on Radio or TV. Or for that matter listen to Surojit Sen, Lotika Ratnam, Pankaj Mohan or Phillip Neelam. For Hindi, the advice was to listen to Indu Wahi, Vinod Kashyap, Ramanand Prasad Singh or Devki Nandan Pandey, all masters of their craft.
These were legends of radio and every word spoken was after delving on its correct pronunciation. Ameen Sayani, Manohar Mahajan and so many others on the Radio also never made silly mistakes while speaking. In addition commentators including Chakrapani, Devraj Puri, Jasdev Singh etc were all perfect at their trade..
Somewhere down the line something seems to have gone wrong. Watch any TV show, English or Hindi, the coarse singsong accents put you off. But there are some like Moinadeepa Banerjee and Prannoy Roy or Vidya Shankar Aiyar and Arnab Goswami who have kept the English flag flying. In hindi you have a whole lot of anchors who have a problem with anything containing “zee’’ and insist on using “j’’ instead. For example Hazar baar is pronounced as hajar baar. I am not poking fun at anyone. My simple point is that if your are an anchor you must speak the language correctly. Thousands of children who watch the show end up acquiring wrong pronunciation of words. It is unfair to them as also the rest of your viewers. Such anchors should overcome this with practice. The great hindi news readers I have mentioned above never spoke any word wrongly and were very gentle with the language.
Overall too, one can see that the younger generation appears to be affected by this problem more as compared to a generation immediately before that. You can see this problem even among famous people. Recently, Times Now had a show where Hillary Clinton and Aamir Khan inter acted with Arnab Goswami. For those who saw the show would understand how Aamir Khan’s burly, heavy weight, cacophonic accent stood out as a sore thumb—horribly hard on the ears.(And then he says that he thinks in English…must be pretty noisy thinking). If you ever listen to Salman Khurshid, the minister for corporate affairs in English, Urdu or Hindi, he comes out with flying colours. The same cannot be said about many younger MPs or famous actors or designers etc.
I know many readers will not agree with me but I still believe that purity of any language should be maintained. We must work on the way we speak and there is no reason why we cannot overcome the flaws.