Language Dilemas


I was filling in a form yesterday and there was a language section.

  1. Native language: __________
  2. Additional language:________

I was unhappy about this and reluctantly filled in my mother tongue. I prefer it when people just provide blanks for language and let you choose your proficiency for spoken/written/reading.

  1. Language:____________   Proficiency:_____________
  2. Additional language:________   Proficiency:__________

It is quite easy for a person coming from a monolingual country to provide this and helpful, especially if one is from an English speaking country but I feel it puts non-native English speakers at disadvantage.

My native tongue may be Tamil but I am most proficient in English. When I put my native language as Tamil, it makes people assume that English is my second language which it is not. My Tamil is nowhere near native levels and technically I am lying when I put it as native but that’s what it says on many of my certificates.

I express myself the best in English. Of all the Indian languages, I believe I am most proficient in Hindi which again is not my native language. I speak Tamil without a Tamil accent which makes people laugh and I quickly switch back to English. Often, I tend to substitute Tamil words with Hindi when I cannot remember the exact word in the spur of the moment.

I read almost everything in English and have been doing so for years and struggle to read (or read slowly) in Tamil. I even read Hindi faster than Tamil. I make myself read Tamil to improve my reading speed but there are times I am not motivated and use Google Translate ha ha. Yes, I really do that for my mother tongue.

I watch only American TV series and mainly English movies. There are times when I watch Telugu/Hindi/Tamil movies though I prefer watching Telugu movies because I lived in Hyderabad.

Add to that my French textbooks and book.

Overall my language skills would rate as:English>Hindi>Tamil = Telugu (I can’t read or write Telugu)>French

My favourite language is English of course because I do everything and have benefited the most from this language.

4 thoughts on “Language Dilemas

  1. Since “native language” seems to be used synonymously with “first language” aka the language you speak and think in most comfortably, shouldn’t it be ok if you put English there? And then Tamil as the next one.

    1. Hmm… I never thought of it that way. Next time I will put it in that way because it makes more sense. However, in some applications which define you by race/language (I have filled some forms like that – country, race, mother tongue), I guess I will have to stick to Tamil because I am already in that bracket group.

  2. I go through the same thing. I talk and think in English or Hindi. I have trouble speaking in Marathi with people. I have been talking to some guys on the phone and it makes me very uncomfortable when they speak in Marathi and I have to answer in English. I try speaking in Marathi n keep switching. I told my folks I am more comfortable with someone who talks in English but I can’t hold that against someone Na.

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