ich bin nicht viel klüger!


My father made some interesting choices in our upbringing. One of them was his most unpopular decision of sending us to government schools. You see, my father was bent on making sure that we studied in our mother tongue however after trying all the then popular and fancy private institutes, he realized that no matter how much one paid, they only taught in English medium. So, to our annoyance, he decided to discard them all and sent us to the lowly government ones.

I think we were so upset with his decision that we completely overlooked the fact, that over the years, he worked hard for becoming the PTA president. He changed the face of the school, even if it costed him his own dime. Infrastructure was improved. My father’s political connections meant, that all the best teachers in the state were transferred to the one we belonged. All this work meant we were under constant limelight, which made me resent him even more.

Any how we survived the high school, but as I entered the wild world of university, I knew I was at a clear disadvantage as I couldn’t speak or understand fluent English. Well, guess what, right then I hated my dad some more!

LanguagePartners5I was so determined to break free of his hold that I gave up every thing he stood for. I cut my hair (I am a Sikh), taught myself English and rarely spoke in my mother tongue anymore. Kind of sad, isn’t it?Well, I felt so proud that I actually thought a linguistic ability or lack of one for that matter, was the indicator of ones mental caliber.

Over decade of being that way, couple of years ago, I moved to Germany, where I was mute again. I watched in silence as a lady at Ausländeramt spoke to me slowly as if not knowing German had proved how stupid I really was. In my travels across Europe, I have met some extraordinary people who couldn’t speak a word of English and yet had legends to share.

Since that day in immigration office, I have been putting serious efforts in appreciating both my father and my sweet mother tongue every single day. Today, I sit here knowing that my skill of being able to speak and understand five languages does not prove that I am wiser than I was yesterday, nor that being less than perfect in any one of them would make me stupid in anyway .


8 responses »

  1. Sorry to be so late in reading your post but I liked seeing your point of view on this. When we were in Germany our landlady was trying to tell me how to operate the washing machine and dryer. She didn’t speak any English and I didn’t know any German. When she saw the blank look on my face after her very detailed instruction, she also spoke very slowly as if that was going to help me. Ha. Not helpful at all. However, if it had been a language where I at least knew a little, like Spanish or French, maybe going slow would have been helpful. I want to learn other languages, especially Chinese and Spanish. It’s on my list of things to do… but that list is so long!

    • Dear Roxann,

      I finally got around to visiting my blog, you know the reasons already. I remember your visit here and also hate it that weather kept us from meeting that time. With the rate you are going in achieving your dreams I don’t think Spanish or Mandarin would have to wait very long.


  2. I love it! I only speak two languages, not five, but I well remember my early years of learning French, when I felt like my greatest battle was to convince the people I was speaking to that I did have half a brain in my head!

    • Dear Sharon,

      Thank you for stopping by. I am glad you liked it. I can imagine how you must have felt. I go through that every other day over here. Most days I just end up laughing with “Yeh, I know! I must have been dropped on my head”


  3. Hmm Piya, in Ghana here, the craze is seeing parents who can hardly speak proper English speaking to their children in a language that is not theirs. I mean like you English is our second language and it’s really sad when every one speaks this language and neglect their mother tongue. Funny enough those who do that grow up not speaking or writing English well at all.

    I insist that my children speak or learn our native language or mother tongue first, understand it before they can learn other languages including English.

    • Dear Reading Pleasure,
      I can imagine your point here, back home I see so many parents trying to teach their kids English when they can barely speak it well, themselves. In my opinion, learning a foreign language is a great thing to do as it opens up doors for so many new books to be read and conversations to be had, but ignoring your own language to learn another is like ignoring your own mother cause we find someone else’s mother cooler than our own.

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