Girls of Pragathi Women’s College talk about what it means to them to be fluent in English and the need to remember their mother tongue

As hundreds throng o the theatres to catch Sridevi’s performance in her comeback film English Vinglish, the girls of Pragathi Women’s College, Kukatpally do not want to be left too far behind.

Most of them have already seen it while others have made plans with friends to go watch the film. But what do they think of the protagonist Shashi Godbole’s struggle with not knowing to speak English? And what role does the English language play in their lives?

Shaima Sultana, a first year student is confident that ability to converse in English will open up many opportunities for her. “I consider it as an added advantage while looking for a job, although just being able to speak well is not enough,” she says. Fortunately for them, English has been the language of instruction ever since they began formal schooling. However, the girls agree that as English becomes more popular, it is important to maintain a balance between English and your local languages.

For Meena Sharma, knowing her mother-tongue Telugu is just as important as knowing English. “While I speak English now, my relatives and family still speak only Telugu, so it is important that I know this language as that is what I use to communicate with them,” she says. From her perspective, Telugu is important to maintaining close relationships with her family.

Others lament that the Andhra Pradesh Government has to take up promoting Telugu with the same initiative shown by the Government of Tamil Nadu in promoting Tamil but this complaint is immediately responded to by M. Archana who remembers being made to study Telugu as a second or third language.

According to her, if English is to be taught in school, then mother-tongues should be taught at home. “These days, parents show off their children’s ability to speak English and insist that the child should speak only English at home, like they do in schools,” she explains, “As a result most kids grow up being more fluent in English than in their own languages.”

D. Shravanti on the other hand, spends her time at home speaking English, even with her siblings and mother, “My mother insists I speak in English so that she too can pick up the language.”

Going back to English Vinglish, while the girls are sceptical about being able to pick up a language in the matter of four weeks, they do think a little determination and guidance can go a long way.

“A lot can be achieved by simply watching English movies and reading a lot of books,” adds P. Prashanthi.

“Just attending a class is not enough.”

She is seconded by D. Shravanti “While most women can read and write English, only a few can speak confidently to others who are fluent in the language,” she concludes. And that’s what makes all the difference.