Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why a duck to water? Quack, quack.

I’m amazed. Astounded. Maybe, even dumbfounded. (No, I didn’t have Roget’s Thesaurus within easy reach.) Witnessing the sorry plight of many of the non-English speaking students these days, I cannot simply comprehend how I ever managed to become fairly proficient in that totally alien language. Because I too belonged to a middle-class family that spoke Marathi all day. So, I had no contact with English until I first joined a mediocre school in the neighbourhood. Somehow I took to it like a duck to water, though. I never needed to mug up spellings or rules of grammar. All of it came to me kind of intuitively. Unlike the situation now, there was no pressure then at home to master the language. In fact, apart from The Times of India, the three magazines the family subscribed to were all Marathi. My mother used to read them and I followed suit. My sister, though, had a few English magazines home-delivered to her by a ‘circulating’ library. I’m not quite sure if I even glanced at them. (But, if memory serves, Coronet and Pageant numbered among them.) At the same time, I was also good in Marathi. Later on, when I passed my SSC examination from a somewhat better school, I topped my class in English with a distinction and even got a prize for it. My experience suggests that the lack of ‘exposure’ is not what hinders youngsters from learning a language. Lack of interest and/or too severe parental pressure probably explains their failure. Read some useful info here: P.S.: Those children of a Lesser God who haven’t even heard of Why A Duck – a large format book of stills and dialogues from Marx Brothers’ movies which I had bought from Nalanda at The Taj Intercontinental ages ago but seem to have misplaced somewhere along the way – can at least take a gander at Believe me, though, goose. It’s nowhere close to the real thing.

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