I speak English as a second language and I have been doing so for as long as I can remember. Over the years, I have gained some mastery over the foreign germanic tongue, perhaps owing to my affinity for the language, its history, its originating place and even its global appeal. I am also a bit of stickler for the rules of the language including its grammar, spelling, enunciation and even pronunciation — a trait that has earned me the not-so-flattering epithet of ‘Grammar Nazi‘. I am quick to correct anyone who pronounces ‘Nazi’ /ˈnɑːtsi/ incorrectly and that just results in more taunting. That never bothered me but here’s something that does, in deed, grind my gears.
Maldivians, especially younger ones, claiming that they speak English ‘better’ than their native Dhivehi. I think it is quite inconceivable, and ludicrous, that someone might make this bold claim when they’ve lived their entire lives in the archipelago and speak Dhivehi 90 percent of the time. My assertion isn’t just based on self-aggrandising conjecture but I have spoken with a number of these so-called ‘completely anglicised’ persons and all too often they would switch to Dhivehi when struggling to express something in the popular foreign language. This is, of course, completely discounting all the errant grammar that slips into their conversation. They don’t need no education, ain’t it the truth? Let’s not get into written mistakes for now.
I had this conversation earlier with a friend and he offered the explanation that those who consistently made this assertion, including an ex-girlfriend, perhaps meant to say that they found the utility of the English language to be more useful in certain contexts. For a non-technical example to illustrate this point, I don’t think I have ever had a (romantic or sexual) relationship where the primary mode of communication wasn’t strictly in English. In hindsight, I suppose it would be a bit awkward to say ކަލޭދެކޭ ވަރަށް ލޯބިވޭ in lieu of the more traditional trisyllabic phrase (not to mention the… err… sexting).
If my mate’s assumption were to be true, then I should highlight the failure to communicate on part of the overly pretentious, well-spoken linguists of this country. Also, I don’t agree with the oft-cited premise that Dhivehi is a language deficient in vocabulary and I think its nonsensical to demand it produce words for utterly alien concepts such as ‘snow’. It is perfectly suited for the locale that gave it birth and this is evident in the language having words to describe every stage of a coconut’s ripening. As for technical language, be it sciences or accounting, I think we still have a long way to go as a linguistic culture and our mother tongue needs to be adapted for a globalised word (and fast).
So to wrap things up, what makes me qualified to lampoon these enlightened and über-hip persons I’ve mentioned several times here? Well, I am not and to reiterate what I said earlier, I speak English as a second language. Despite the fact that I’ve had British mates tell me that I speak English better than most… well… English people, I am still learning. Everyday. I make mistakes all the time and I am fairly certain that there are more than half a dozen of those strewn across this very post. English grammar, after all, is tremendously complicated if you get down to the fine details of it. Which is precisely why I am never going to claim that I speak English better than my native Dhivehi. I will, however, begrudgingly admit that it is sometimes easier to express certain ideas in English as opposed to Dhivehi. Regardless, the latter remains my one true lingual identity.
This is also why I feel the subject matter of this post deserve some derision. If you, my imaginary reader, feel that I need some ridiculing myself, then the comment field is right below and as long as it’s not spam, it’ll get immediately published. Oh, and the irony of this post being in English isn’t lost on me. 🙄