Friday, May 04, 2007

Class and Language

Today, I went with a friend to see a play performed by a theatre group from Chennai in Chowdiah Hall. The proceeds of this event would go to a school called Round Table 44. This is a school for underprivileged kids and I am sure that this money would be put to a great cause, that of educating kids who otherwise would not get educated.
Before the play started, they showed us a video about the school and the people behind it. It started with a message "we have a dream". But I noticed something interesting in the video. The founder and some other people who looked to be members of the board (they were mostly businessmen) spoke to the camera in English but the testimonials of the kids were in Kannada with English subtitles! Now why is that? Is it because the kids' english is not that good? Clearly that could be the reason as one of the members had difficulty stringing together a proper english sentence. I wondered whether not even one of those kids (one of whom said that she is studying in a college and had 76% in her 10th exams and a distinction in her 7th standard exams) could speak english, even as bad as the member I mentioned in the previous sentence? Could it be possible that the school is a kannada medium one? I checked their website and this picture seems to tell a different story -

I should probably check with the school but their contact form gives me a HTTP 500 error (Internal Server Error) everytime I try posting my query. For some reason, they do not have an email id I could mail to and the 'Zip' code field accepts just 5 digits!
So, I wonder whether this video and website is mainly targeted to western (read, US) audience and this would explain the reason why the children (and their parents) spoke in Kannnada - to give the primitive, destitute, 'native' feel to the children.
If my suspicion is right and the language in which the testimonials were given were indeed intentionally so, I am mad. I am mad not because the school is a fraud and not doing a public service but I am mad at this classist nature of this video and the message it gave me was one of strong repulsion to the organisation.

The video also reveals how language is being used to demarcate and signify class. The elite, the rich and the upper class are the ones who have access to good english education and the lower class can converse only in the local language. Balraj Sahni was right. English is the new Sanskrit.

Update: I found that they do have a page with email addresses after all. My mistake.

No comments:

Site Analytics

Powered by Blogger

eXTReMe Tracker