My maid who is not educated uses a cell phone with a great deal of comfort. She doesn’t carry it with her, but leaves it at home, using it as a landline. I always thought that she and her family members (none of whom are educated) would be hampered by the fact that the letters were in English (they did not have the Hindi enabled option) and it would be difficult to use the SMS facility (which I think is a boon) but I was wrong. Not only does she SMS frequently (all in English!) she also knows exactly who is calling! Thanks to a code language. And this is a trend that is catching on in India. 

As this article says:

Every time autorickshaw driver Ameer Jan’s cellphone rings and he sees the letters MM on his screen, his face lights up. He pulls his three-wheeler towards the kerb and says, “Ha Amma, tell me…”

Ameer Jan — a school dropout who can decipher the English alphabet and no more — has other signs of recognising who’s calling: BB for wife, DD for Didi… Phonebook records here contain alphabets used as codes, hieroglyphs if you please, marking the reverse of the evolution from signs to letters…

Some of the other creative acronyms are DD for Didi, B+ for elder brother, GG for Ghar (Home), DUK for Dukaan (shop) and SAL for Sala (Brother-in-law). Well, this particular news report was from Bangalore, but other places in India are not too far behind!

In Ranchi, many of those who have never gone to school have picked up the English alphabet because of their cell phone (unfortunately the report is not available online).  A quote from the report:

Hari Bhandari Bahadur (55) a guard at St. Xaviers College in Ranchi never got a chance to go to school. But after buying a mobile phone in 2005, he has learnt to identify the English alphabet within a short time. Now he identifies the ‘missed’ calls by his wife, as the mobile screen says ‘BB’, short for Biwi (wife). 

And Bhandari is confident that if he could learn the alphabet so quickly, he will soon be able to start using the SMS facility in English too. In fact, vegetable vendor Mohammed Shamim, has already learnt words like ‘menu’, ‘call’, ‘recieve’ and ‘silent’. He is proud of his newfound knowledge of English.

Well, the need for quick, easy and inexpensive communication is a strong motivation for people to learn. Besides, not only does learning through the audiovisual medium enhance learning, if a lesson learnt is practised every day of one’s life learning become permanent.