Business Manager Ravina Heer and Microbiologist Rajan Sharma fell in love in their university library. They’ve been married for two years.
For English Language Day 2021, this couple told us about their connection through the English language, as well as Hindi and Punjabi, their family languages.
How did you meet?
Rajan: I was in the library at the University of Wolverhampton to drop off lunch for my friend who was studying for his final year at university. Ravina just happened to be studying with him that day. I wondered who she was but didn’t speak to her on our first meeting.
Ravina is from England and I'm from India. I moved to England for university. My English wasn't great when I arrived, but by the time I met Ravina my English had improved.
What happened after your first conversation in the library?
Ravina: We kept meeting in a group with our friends. It was during finals for me and for Rajan's friends, toward our dissertation time. It was Rajan's second year at university so he was under less pressure, but he was often in the library.
Rajan: One day our friends were busy with exams and lectures. That left me and Ravina alone; that was the turning point for our relationship
Ravina: We finally got to spend some quality time together and get to know each other.
Rajan: I used to cook sometimes and bring Ravina lunch.
Ravina: He made me roti with okra and so many other dishes. My favourite was vegetable rice.
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Which languages do you speak apart from English?
Ravina: I speak English and my family language is Punjabi. Rajan's mother tongue is Hindi. There are some similarities between Hindi and Punjabi, but they are very different languages.
Rajan: I think her Hindi is better than my Punjabi. She can speak to anyone in Hindi, but I'm not as confident in Punjabi.
Ravina: Sometimes, if I can't express a certain feeling, I have to either double explain it or try to find a different word. At first I mixed Hindi with Punjabi and English, but now I can hold a confident conversation in Hindi with Rajan's family.
Rajan: Or we make up our own words.
How do you choose when to speak Hindi, Punjabi or English?
Ravina: We always say I love you in English.
Rajan: We started our conversation in English in the university library, so that's still the way we communicate. It would be difficult to change to another language with each other.
Ravina: We have to think before we speak to each other in Punjabi or Hindi. English flows for us. In some situations, we use our languages as a secret code.
Rajan: When Ravina speaks English, she sounds like my Ravina. But she learned Hindi to speak to my family.
Ravina: At first I didn't have a language in common with Rajan's family. That made it difficult to connect with his parents. They visited us and we travelled to India for our second, Indian wedding. I kept in touch with them over the phone and started to build my Hindi skills.
I spent three weeks immersed in the language last year, and made a lot of progress. I practiced with younger people because I worried that I'd mistakenly say something disrespectful to our elders while I was learning.
Rajan's mother sadly passed away this year, and I was able to share my condolences with our family.
Have you blended families as well as languages?
Ravina: In our cultures, it can be difficult to introduce a partner to your parents. It's more complex than introducing someone and saying 'we're dating'. I've seen long-term couples from our community break up because families don't approve.
Rajan: My family always told me that it doesn't matter where a person is from; they just want us to be happy.
Ravina: When I introduced Rajan to my parents, he had no family in England and we were studying full time. We were young, and they wondered if we should wait a while. But it all worked out. We went to my mum's house this weekend and had dinner and a fire in the garden together. Rajan has a great bond with my family, and likewise with me.
Rajan: I’m proud of Ravina and she’s connected with my family. Now I have a family in England as well.
Learn about studying in the UK on the StudyUK website.
Follow Rajan's YouTube channel for his advice to Indian students in the UK.
Read what international students have to say about studying in the UK on the Study UK blog.
English Language Day is 23 April. #ConnectedByEnglish