Decoding the global language

Nashtapetta Asthikal tries to analyse the Malayali’s inability in taming the world language despite his never-ending association with it.

Published: 02nd October 2013 10:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2013 10:11 AM   |  A+A-

Have you heard of lost bone syndrome? If you thought it has to do with osteoporosis or some similar medical condition, you are in for a surprise. According to M S Sajidev, the author of Nashtapetta Asthikal, it’s a linguistic malady most Malayalis suffer. The 392-page book tries to analyse ordinary Keralite’s inability in taming the world language, despite his never-ending association with it. You might find the title a little too odd for a spoken English guide, but the author comes with an interesting rationale. He says academics in Kerala require only 30 percent grasp over English and every year we produce truckloads of linguistically impaired graduates. “Their knowledge of English is just like having a dysfunctional body lacking 70 per cent of its skeleton,” says the book.  

The book, which explores the scenario with a clinical precision, features a spate of stories and anecdotes that keep the reader hooked. In one of the opening chapters the readers are introduced to an Indian youth blankly staring at the dinner spread on board a passenger ship. Though he has been starving for a while he leaves his plate untouched as he is clueless whether the food is vegetarian or not. The youngster who returns to his room with a growling stomach and a heavy heart is none other than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on his maiden trip abroad. Gandhiji, who has studied English till matriculation, finds it difficult to articulate his thoughts in English. He knows the scientific jargon to describe the cell structure of amoeba or how galaxies are formed, but is unable to configure and utter a simple sentence. In the following chapters the author describes how Gandhi became proficient in English through the episodic memory he developed during his stay in an English speaking country.  

In his book Sajidev also tries to find an explanation from a scientific point of view. There is a dramatic interlude about Jenny, a girl who was locked inside a dark room by her father for 13 years. Since she was raised in isolation, Jenny’s vocabulary was limited and most of it consisted of grunts and howls. The author goes on to give a vivid description of her language learning process and towards the end introduces werncike area of brain which is responsible for the comprehension of languages. He later comes to broca area which handles functions linked to sound production. He advocates proper exercise to both the areas as the first step towards fluency.  

The book opens with a personal account of the author trying to meet Defence Minister A K Antony.  After a couple of futile attempts he is allowed entry and during the short session the author tries to convince him  about the necessity of a total educational revolution in India. The book, which also tries to trace the flaws of education system in India, says our curricular which was created during the colonial era, was devised in such a way to create employees who can do clerical jobs. Many of the students passing out from professional colleges in Kerala lack any expertise in English, one reason they are left behind in job interviews despite having excellent technical know-how.   

The first half of the book chronicles the author’s desperate attempts at mastering the language to which many of Malayalis can easily relate. He tries out many English-made-easy courses, goes through strenuous reading sessions and attends spoken English classes. In short the book is a series of events chronicling how he finally chalks out a plan to gain control over English.

The last few chapters are more like a language drill where you are introduced the basics of English. The book published by Know How Books is priced` 500.


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