Good morning! I must narrate this incident to you, since it happens to be related to the language you and I like. This elderly gentleman comes regularly to the gym, the first time I spoke to him, I thought he had some speech affliction but later I realised that the difficulty in comprehension was owing to my inability to comprehend the accent.

It so happens that he speaks with foreign accent (it sounds like American) and that early in the morning when my brains can hardly decipher my own mother tongue, I cannot be castigated to take American accent for speech affliction. I mean one does feel like a zombie at 5 am in the morning.

Anyhow, this gentleman is everybody’s favourite. Right from the damsels (young ladies) to the balding daddies to the aunties and the arrogant dudes — everyone is eager to strike a conversation with him (much to the chagrin of the other seniors around and we can’t blame them for their envy, poor fellows…). Strangely, it’s not that the much in demand man is some rambunctious (lively) fellow who narrates tales of Baghdad to entertain the exhausted people. In fact, he’s rather silent and minds his own business and politely responds to conversations that are forced upon him.

I believe that the reason for the man’s celebrated status lies in his language skills. Just yesterday, the moment he entered the gym, a man ecstatically wished him, dumped the tread mill and went to exercise on the machine next to the one that the ‘lucky man’ had occupied. Of course, I was listening to their conversation. (You can’t stick fingers in your ears while walking on the tread mill, can you?)

The younger guy eagerly started off with some Gujarati maxim, which he explained in English. It was fun pinning my ears to their friendly talk, amusingly as time passed the younger guy, who had started in a very Gujarati accent, became more and more American in his accent, while the elderly guy sounded more ‘desi’.

Jokes apart, at times, when conversing with foreigners or foreign born and brought up Indians, one has to modulate one’s accent, in order to become more coherent. Our Indian pronunciation and accent is not very intelligible to people of other nationalities. It’s like a Chinese speaking in English to you. Even if the guy is well versed with English, his Chinese accent may make his English sound like Chinese. Thus, he will have to modulate his accent to make it sound more international.

So you see guys, you could win some brownie points by being fluent in English with the right accent.

However, once you’ve crossed a certain age, no matter how hard you try you will not be able to give up your regional accents. The best bet is to ensure your kids get perfect English education right from the start of their school.

Wiki says the lack of English language skills can “limit your professional growth as business is getting global. You will not get access to knowledge to broaden your thinking. You may not be able to communicate with some successful people. You may miss out on superior Hollywood movies and songs. Your scope for education can be limited.”

Well, you could agree with that or debate upon it, the fact remains that socially you do become more acceptable when you converse in English. You don’t believe me? Try this: As you enter a shop, talk in English on your phone and see what happens. You will be surprised by the reaction of the shopkeeper and you’ll love yourself for the admiring looks of the other buyers.

Keep smiling…

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