Indians living abroad, especially in English-speaking countries, are quite often asked a question that takes us by surprise. I am sure that many Indians have been asked this question time and again and no, this has nothing to do with their line of work or anything else.
The question, that may come across as innocent, is actually quite appalling. I have met at least five persons who have asked me about the fluency of my spoken English. It may come as a surprise when you are asked the very first time but when asked, again and again, it becomes a little irritating.
Let me make this clear on behalf of all the Indians who live abroad. Yes, we can speak English. There is a simple reason behind this–we come English medium schools. Yes, we have lots and lots of those back in India. We not only have English as a subject but it is also the language used for communication in school and college and throughout our years of education. It may come as a surprise to you but we also use English at the workplace. Our fluency may vary but most of us do know the language. Surprising as it may seem to many, we can read, write and speak English fluently.
I was first bombarded with this question around three years ago when my husband and I went mattress shopping. The saleswoman, who was in her late forties, was quite amiable and did her job well. Then she asked us for how long we had been living in the United States. I told her it had just been a couple of months (We had just relocated back then). She looked surprised and I think she did try to control herself but failed and said, “Your English is perfect. Where did you learn to speak the language?” It took me a few minutes to recover from the question but my husband, who travels a lot and is probably used to this line of questioning, simply said, we come from English-medium schools. The poor woman looked shocked. We did not buy the mattress from that store, not because of the stupid question but because it was too expensive.
Since it was the first time I was asked that question I did not know how to react. I have been asked the same question on many occasions and sometimes with a look of disgust, surprise, shock and many similar expressions but now I do not even bother to explain the Indian education system to them. I simply reply with a Yes and move on.
I can still understand if the question is asked by some middle-aged person. But someone who is young shouldn’t be so ignorant. Don’t get me wrong. I can completely understand that you are intrigued and think that people from India do not speak English and why shouldn’t you? After all, it is not our national language. However, the good part is that the India was ruled by the Britishers for the 100 years and whatever bad they did, they did manage to leave behind a few good things, the adaption of English language in our education system and it is being followed till date and becoming more and more advanced.
So, the crux is most of us who do get a job in English speaking countries or are transferred there, it is because we know the language. Why the hell would we be sent there otherwise? Think about it. Am I making sense to you now? I am sure I am.
Source-en.gravatar.com/confused4ever, writer is an Indian blogger living in the US