Language is something we humans use to communicate. It is more like a catalyst to help us to understand each other. This is something that sums up the use or role of a language. But what if it is a lot more than that? What if learning not knowing how to speak a language defines your place in society? What if your understanding of a language decides your worth as a person? Will you be all right if your fluency in a language were to determine your desirability and focus on your upbringing? Does it sound unjust, right? but we have dozens of examples in Pakistan that we just misunderstood the definition or understanding of the word ‘Language’.
From making memes of Umar Akmal’s (the Pakistani Cricketer) ability to speak English to making fun of Meera (the Pakistani Actress) who is not able to speak English properly, we Pakistani set our standards in a way that the fluency of a language determines your value as a person. This is what happened in a recent bizarre incident when Cannoli by the owners of Cafe Soul, Uzma and Thea, came under fire and are being slammed by netizens over their elitist behavior. A viral video began making social media rounds where the two ladies were spotted making derogatory comments to their manager. Uzma Chaudhry can be seen at the beginning, saying, “We own Cannoli, and we were bored, so we would like to introduce you to our team.”
They then call their employee and ask him to say a sentence in English, something which the manager can be seen struggling at. Uzma Chaudhary remarks, “so this is the beautiful English he speaks.” and Dia Haider chimes in saying “this is what we paid for” (about the English language courses they paid for). Towards the end, Chaudhary states, “This is at a very good salary, mind you.” Since then, their unconsidered humor has been strongly discouraged by the press. The bitter reality of Pakistani culture, where speaking English is synonymous with becoming famous, is very clear in the video where the owners saw their manager mocked for his inability to speak English. The general public responded to the colonial thought of the owners, while others roasted them with amusing memes. Celebrities, too, did not hold back and spoke their minds openly:
Sheheryar Munawar (Pakistani actor) responded by saying, “Seems like an exaggerated scene out of a 90’s movie, where the mean rich kids pick on the protagonist, making fun of his humble background.” Anoushey Ashraf also tweeted. “No damage control can undo the embarrassment here. Even if he’s your best buddy, how is such leg-pulling acceptable in 2021? How?”
Besides, Shaniera Akram, the wife of former captain Waseem Akram, who is known to quiet the savages down with her mind, uploaded an Instagram picture and challenged the café owners for an English competition.
“I am bored too so I challenge you, ladies, to an English competition”
This expanded her fan following and the public appreciate her a ton.
As far as they realized the mistake of humiliating their Manager Owais, the owners of Cafe Soul shared an apology letter.
But why do we Pakistanis give such importance to English?
We Pakistanis are conditioned to do one thing by nature is “blindly ape to the West”. We are easily influenced by everything which emerges from the West, even though it doesn’t sound right. We assume that their doings will be made us cool. Firstly, we have followed their fast-food, lifestyle and are now hooking up with numerous uninvited guests, such as diabetes, cancer, depression, heart attacks, and obesity.
This is due to the lack of confidence in our own culture. This is also reflected in the negligence of the native languages and our unhealthy obsession with the English language. We feel embarrassed to speak our mother language, and we are proud to speak English. Neglecting the social manners of talking to a person in a language he/she acknowledges, we needlessly exaggerate our flawless English-speaking skills even if the other person speaks in his/her native language. We have made the English language the ultimate criterion for assessing a person’s education, competence, viability, and even economic standing.
Native Languages tend to make you a proficient person. It doesn’t instantly make you highly successful. I have come across several instances where people, not exactly well-versed in English, are far more successful in their fields than their English-speaking counterparts. Feel pride in your mother language. Communicate it unashamedly and unapologetically. Your heritage and your history are your strength. They are the backbone of your persona. Never be hesitant or embarrassed to boast of your real self in the world.
Language does not assess our intellect. Language certainly has the potential to articulate our intelligence to others by saying, reading, or writing our ideas, views, and opinions.
So, go ahead and express yourself in the vocabulary you’re familiar with. Because, at the end of the day, what matters is the consistency of your thinking, not the form in which you convey it!
*Gulnaz Nawaz, has completed a MPhil Education at University of the Punjab.