English as a second language is widely accepted in our country without question. Also, the ability to understand or speak Hindi is common to many Bangladeshis. But, while some people think it's smart to speak that language, others are hesitant or critical towards the use of that language.
I must admit that my ability to understand or speak Hindi is at a beginner level. A few months back, my wife and I met an old Indian lady at Melbourne airport who could not speak English. Thinking that we came from the same country, she approached us for help in finding her luggage. We knew what she was after and assisted her by providing some basic directions in Hindi. She was very happy and seemed relieved. Moreover, I work in a company where sometimes, I need to deal with people who speak Hindi and some of them are not fluent in English. In those situations, I feel that it's acceptable to maintain basic communication by understanding what they are trying to say and talking with them in their language.
However, I feel really offended when I find that people start to think that all Bangladeshis should know or speak Hindi. When my wife was looking for a job, she was surprised when the Indian supervisor in the company said, “Oh…you can't speak Hindi. I thought everyone speaks that in Bangladesh.” I believe many from that country has the same belief. I truly have no disrespect towards that language, rather I am happy that I can understand a different language; just how I feel happy when a foreign friend uses a few words in Bangla with me. However, it is the perception of people that offends me. In many cases, I have seen, we are more enthusiastic to speak to them using their language and this sort of attitude might have created such a perception.
Although I am not against using Hindi in conversations, I feel it is highly important to maintain our own cultural identity. Languages are beautiful and it should be learnt, exercised and respected; it should not lead tomisperceptions that put our own identity in crisis.
Md Niaj Morshed