Saturday, July 19, 2008

A "Fine" way to enforce language

I had blogged about lingual conflicts in the US due to a heavy influx of legal and illegal Spanish speaking Mexicans. I read this bit of news online which gives a new twist on how the authorities/ government of US is dealing with the lingual conflicts. The enforcement of English language is now being done by levying heavy fines on people who don't speak well.

According to the article Manuel Castillo, a truck driver ferrying onions through Alabama was fined $500 for not speaking properly. He was not speeding or didn't break any law, his only crime was that he couldn't speak proper English. Quite expectedly Castillo is outraged and thinks this fine is not fair but since he doesn't have the time or resources to travel to Alabama and fight the case he is paying the $500 fine. The article further states that last year 25,230 tickets for language violation.

Of course this fining is debatable and I am sure lot of people are not pleased with this system of language enforcement. But as far as I am concerned I think this is a fantastic system to ensure that people learn the local language. I was born and brought up in Bangalore which, in the recent has experienced massive influx of outsiders, especially from neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala and of course from several north Indian states too. These immigrants have not only made Bangalore their homes but have established their own ghettos.

Whenever I have travelled and met people the first thing they say when they hear I am from Bangalore is that "You don't have to know Kannada to live in Bangalore." This statement always was like a tight slap across my face. When we go to other cities in the country it is almost impossible to do anything without knowledge of the local language. In some places people just ignore you when you try asking them for directions in English. And in Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, I have had people approaching me and asking for directions in an array of languages such as, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi etc.

It it frustrating to see this happening. To see the city I was born and brought up in being consumed by people of other languages who have scant respect and show little regard for local culture and history. I had been to a panel discussion organised by Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore where the panelists were all people who didn't speak a word of Kannad and had come to the city seeking fortunes. And a common sentiment echoed throughout the discussion was "Bangalore is a boring place, with no history, culture or character." And of course they complained about bad roads, Kannada speaking locals who insist on speaking their language as opposed to English or Hindi or Tamil.

If this was the case why the hell do they continue to live and thrive in Bangalore. They can go to their native places and live there. Millions of people have come to Bangalore from all over the country seeking fortune and great weather. Kannadigas by nature are very friendly and adjusting and as such we welcomed everyone into our state expecting that they would become part of us. But they come with their own agendas of making us part of them and to kill the local culture.

This is the same thing that is happening in the US. An increase in the number of Hispanics residing in the country has ensured that Spanish is the fastest growing language in the US. And now the problem is so much that the federal government has had to put in place regulations and fine people who are in violation of it. I wish this kind of regulation could be put in place in Karnataka to ensure that everyone in the state speaks the local language.

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