We all live in America

Photo by De'Andre Bush on Unsplash

Today, I was thinking about the number of hours that I’ve spent with English. English is not my native language but, I’ve spent majority of my life with it, to the point that I could proficiently write in it and can recognize and understand different accents and imitate them badly. This compounded learning over the years is underrated because it is so sneaky. There is no sudden change and you learn gradually but you get to be exponentially good at it over the years. I think there’s a generation of people like me who learnt English just by watching films and Television Series from the west.

I’ve studied English in school. It was never fun. School, in general, was not much fun. But watching films has been fun because you get to engage with stories. My hunger for stories was more than the limitation by the language. Learning basics in school was obviously the reason I could understand English with any capacity at that time. But as far as learning the English language in school goes, I still can’t annotate parts of speech correctly. And, what the hell is a preposition? I don’t remember. But I can put my thoughts in the form of this essay and I credit the English-language cinema for that.

It is one thing to understand a language in its written form and another to parse out what a native speaker of that language is saying. For a novice, it is a world of a difference. For instance, my parents who could read and write in English can’t really understand a native English speaker speaking in English. They didn’t have access to how a native person would speak whereas I had access to that with cinema.

Getting access to English-language films may have been a great boon for the literacy of the world. There’s huge amount of knowledge on the internet which is predominantly in English. From online courses to YouTube lecture series to books, they are all in English. Building up vocabulary by watching cinema gave me access to sophisticated ideas and cultural reference points.

And, it’s not just me. There’s an entire generation who grew up on these films, who know English a little better because of these films. We came for the lure of the storytelling, but we took the language with us. And, it wasn’t just the language, it was also a gateway to a culture, which we sort of act out in our lives. A population’s art is the export of their culture. That’s why we all kind of live in America. They’ve got the cultural monopoly.

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Shailesh Dagar

Shailesh Dagar

I lease the furniture of my brain.