Thursday, October 6, 2011

Enid Blyton Taught Me English

People tend to criticize children’s writer Enid Blyton quite a bit, especially her informal use of language. Apparently, the casual banter that makes for most of the conversations in her widely loved stories is not the “proper English” that young, budding readers should be exposed to.

Hey, one of the first books I ever picked up was an Enid Blyton, and I can safely say that it was she who formed the basis for my English.

Learning any language becomes more difficult when you formalize the process- when you go for the grammar, the syntax and the rules first, and worry about what to say later. . I would much rather start out fumbling with my words, getting my thoughts out clearly and being corrected on my grammar along the way I am definitely no authority on the subject; this is simply my personal opinion, borne out of my personal experience. After all, that is how I learnt my mother tongue- Bengali. This is how I learnt my Hindi, which I am far more fluent in than the language first mentioned. And it’s also how I learnt English- though this last learning process occurred as much through the written word as through the spoken.

Think about it- which language are you more fluent in? The one you took a short- term course in, or the one that you’re simply more exposed to everyday? Which do you take longer to process?

As a child, the greatest exposure I had to the English language was through Enid Blyton. The first full- fledged book I ever read- beyond The Three Little Pigs- was Five Go To Billycock Hill. I met Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog for the first time in those pages, and it’s been a long, lasting friendship ever since. By the time the mystery had been solved and the Five came out of the mountain- labyrinth all safe and sound, I had already begun talking like them. I did so without any conscious effort- I was too engrossed in the story to notice, or even attempt to notice, anything else. There, in my opinion, lies the real beauty of writers like Ms. Blyton- they are storytellers first and foremost. She created characters I had no difficulty in imagining at all, characters I identified with instantly. She created incredible storylines, that seemed but the most natural thing to happen under the circumstances. After all, why shouldn’t a bunch of schoolchildren with bicycles and a dog track down art thieves who had befuddled the police in the entire countryside? Why shouldn’t thee be a magical faraway tree in the middle of an enchanted forest, that reached up to a new magical land every week? Why shouldn’t pixies, goblins, fairies, gnomes and elves live together in little villages of their own, befriending ponnies and rabbits? Why shouldn’t a little girl’s toys wake up every night to play among themselves in secret?

Enid Blyton brought her toys to life long before Toy Story even came into existence. Noddy and Toyland, in my opinion, are the Original. I learnt to cook up little rhymes with Noddy. I dreamt of writing my first story with Darrell Rivers in Malroy Towers.

Enid Blyton never taught me to appreciate “the majesty and the grandeur of the English language”, as Proffessor Higgins would say. She simply helped me understand it, use it and be fluent in it. And, she did so in the most natural, magical way possible.

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