I love shopping for groceries. I usually go to places where there is a display of wide variety of vegetables, fruits and other staples. There is some satisfaction in walking aisle by aisle through various sections drooling over what is offered. Usually I make up my mind on what I want to cook for the upcoming week, so, when I am walking I am recollecting the recipe and required ingredients to buy apart from what’s there at home. I have observed one thing that distracts me from this process many times, which is kids talking to their parents. Usually they pick-up a chocolate or fruit and keep asking their parents to buy it. What grabs my attention is that most kids do this only in English. Most of the parents respond in English too.
India is a non-English speaking country. There are many languages Indians speak at homes (or so I thought). The trend now has changed. Most parents want their kids to learn English at a very early age. I can understand the need because they have to leave kids at day-care centres. Especially in metro cities, people from many states come for jobs. So, it is difficult to manage if the kid cannot speak English. While this is true, I clearly do not understand why kids are not encouraged to talk in their mother tongue.
Kids of many of my colleagues cannot speak, read and write in their mother tongue. I don’t know why speaking in English makes us feel ‘elite’. When adults look down upon their own language, they won’t consider the language worthy enough for their kids to learn. This is the situation with people who are migrating to new places inside India. People living outside India have a different story. Some of my friends did not even manage to make their kids speak in Telugu. The reason they give is that, “the child does not have an environment to speak in our language. Who can they speak in that language with? only us, so, it is very difficult to teach“. As a result of this most grandparents cannot even feel the satisfaction of talking to their grandchildren because they don’t understand a bit of the conversation, in some cases there is no conversation only gestures. It is making children deprived of rightful love and care they deserve.
Couple of years ago, mother of one of my friend’s neighbour expired while she was at her daughter’s place. Let me tell you what happened. The daughter and her husband moved to Melbourne. This lady, who expired travelled to Melbourne to help her daughter during her second pregnancy. They went out for medical checkup leaving their first child and the grandmother at home. By the time they returned home, the grandmother was on the kitchen floor, dead. The parents asked the kid about what had happened, for which he replied, “She was saying something when she fell on the floor and he did not understand what it was”. Apparently she was asking for water in their language, and the boy did not understand that one word, which might have saved her life.
Mother tongue is a language in which we can express well. Learning mother tongue also has a positive impact on our brain. It also improves our ability to learn and improves cognitive thinking. Until the age of 6, children learn languages very quick. As parents we should encourage our next generation to learn our mother tongue. Mother tongue is an identity, also a very important link to our cultural roots. There are simple ways in which one can make kids learn mother tongue. Always conversate with them in your own language at home and even when you are at public places. Remember bed time stories?? Without buying those English story books, teach kids about our culture through bed time stories in our own language. If kids talk in English (which they do because of what they learn at school), make sure you only respond in your native language. This would automatically make kids pickup the language. Do not worry about their English speaking skills, eventually they would pick up the language from school.
That’s for kids, what about adults? Now-a-days many of us read books only in English. Isn’t this true? Once in a while read books from your own language. Read some news in your local language. Write in your language. When was the last time you did this? You may start with grocery list :-).
I am not against learning or talking in English in any way. May be, few years from now, there may be a world with only one language, “English”… It saddens me that one day next generations won’t be speaking my language. It hurts to see languages die. Many languages are becoming extinct because we don’t use them any more. My mother tongue is my identity and I would love to talk in that language with pride anywhere, except for professional reasons. Let’s preserve our languages !!
No man fully capable of his own language ever masters another
– George Bernard Shaw