Friday, July 1, 2011

English is no lingua franca in Europe

English is no lingua franca in Europe
Sakaal Times
Saturday, June 18, 2011 AT 06:01 PM (IST)
Tags: English language,   Europe,   France,   Camil Parkhe
Travelling from Rome to Venice in a bullet train, I was talking to my daughter when a senior citizen asked me in which language I was speaking. "English, of course,” I replied, embarrassed that due to my accent he had not understood the language. “No, no, I mean which is your native language,” the fellow passenger said. Relieved, I told him that we were from India and that Marathi was our mother tongue and Hindi the national language.
My answer aroused his curiosity. "Then, how come you are conversing among yourselves in English" was his next question. He was an Australian and English was his mother tongue. He was surprised that we Indians, located far from the Britain, had accepted English as the lingua franca. I understood him. Both of us were touring Europe and having hard time striking conversation with the locals. It was difficult to find a person who could speak English in France and Italy.
On our flight from Mumbai to France, the announcements were in French, English and an unknown language, although a French airhostess greeted me with a "namaste." Our communication problems began as soon as we landed at the Charles de Gaul airport in Paris. Barring emigrants from other continents settled in Paris and Italy, the local people had absolutely no knowledge of English. I realised that they did not just feign ignorance of English. I had desperately needed a chord used for transferring photos from camera to the computers and spent hours in many shops trying to convey my need with gestures and some English words but in vain. At Rome railway station, there was no English speaking person who could tell me the timing of the train to the local Leonardo da Vinci airport. Exasperated, I stood in a long queue at the railway reservation section and after reaching the counter half an hour later, asked the booking clerk the timing of the particular train. When she replied, I said "Thank you, Ma'm" and walked out without reserving tickets. On another occasion, I was overjoyed when in a supermarket I read a board, "We speak English." 
It is amazing that common people in countries like France, Italy, Germany do not understand English. What is more amazing that this has not hindered their progress in any field. We in India have concluded that knowledge of English is must for individual and national progress. 

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