Did you know that English is the third most spoken language in the world? Probably. You may even have heard of the variation that exists within the English language and the different cultures associated with it. It can be really hard to get your head around!
At the start of October, I started work in the eastern French region of Franche-Comté. This is the first time I’ve worked at a school large enough to accommodate not one, but two English language assistants.
My hometown is Stirling in Scotland. My fellow assistant hails from New Delhi in India. We come from countries that are 700 miles apart and our backgrounds could not be more different, but we speak the same language!
These first two weeks have been extremely interesting for both the two of us and our secondary school pupils. For instance, I’ve discovered that, while Indian English is based on British English, my Indian colleague uses some American words like chips instead of crisps. When she phones home, she speaks Hinglish – a mixture of Hindi and English, the two official national languages in India.
There are more than just linguistic differences, however! While in the UK most young people leave home when they are around 18 years old, in India they often stay at home until they are married. She’s getting married in India in the Easter holidays. After she’s married, she’ll live with her husband and his parents.
She’d never heard of the celebration Guy Fawkes Night, when British people enjoy bonfires and fireworks to commemorate Guy Fawkes’ failure to blow up the British Parliament on 5th November 1605. I’ve also introduced her to classic British comedy series such as Fawlty Towers and Monty Python, which she now loves as much as I do!
In turn, she’s taught me about Indian festivals I’d never heard of, like Raksha Bandhan. Raksha Bandhan celebrates love and duty between brothers and sisters. Sisters tie a sacred thread called a rakhi on their brothers’ wrists.
Next, she’s planning to show me Bollywood films. I did some Bollywood dance at university, but am ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen a Bollywood film!
Do you find learning about language variety and culture in different English-speaking countries interesting?