Few days back I was sitting at a corner at a table in a restaurant. I was waiting for my friend who was supposed to join me there. We wanted to have lunch together. At one point of my waiting she phoned me and said she would be late for some minutes as she was stuck in a dreadful traffic jam- an everyday phenomenon in Dhaka. I understand traffic jam but not waiting. It’s painful and sometimes embarrassing, especially when you occupy a table with four chairs for a long time with a good intention of waiting for someone especial. And if it takes long, I mean the tenure of waiting; your embarrassment gets multiplied in every second.
I became restless. Waiting one second, waiting two second, waiting three second………………… I was waiting. Leaning against the chair I was trying to comfort myself. I saw a young girl of twenty or twenty two was sitting at the next table. She was waiting for someone. After some time a young boy of her age came and sat on a chair next to her. They greeted each other very amicably but in English. I didn’t want to eavesdrop on them. They were having conversation quite audibly to be heard from the next table. The boy was trying his best to avoid Bangla but the girl was using her mother tongue. I noticed on several occasions the boy demanded English translation of some Bengali words used by the girl during their conversation. I was amazed at this rare view. I saw that during their conversation the boy used Bangla when he failed to complete his thought in English. From his intonation-both Bangla and English- it was quite obvious that he was not from any foreign land where he has to use English all the time and that’s why his Bangla language competence has been affected. Then what? I presumed he was a young chap with English medium background. Up to this it was ok. But when he asked for the meaning of the phrase ‘paribarik kaloho’, used by the girl, my astonishment reached to the culmination. The wretched girl stumbled on her English word reservoir, took a minute, and groped for the right words to describe it to him. Then she said, ” ‘paribarik kaloho’ means ‘family quarrel’ “. The boy nodded his head.
According to second language acquisition theory after a certain age limit our effort of learning another language gets affected by the fist language interference. But in a place with maximum exposure to one’s mother tongue, how it gets influenced destructively by a foreign language demands empirical research. Is it true that competence in Bangla language gets influenced by English in a completely Bangla language environment or is it an act of superciliousness to prove that one belongs to the elite class? Research can be conducted here to demarcate pretension and necessity.