**Warning:Presenting a long stacked up vent…..bear with me**
A few days back I was chatting with a very close friend of mine.And in the course of our conversation Radz said how she was wondering about what language she would speak to her child.
The two languages that she was most comfortable with were English and Hindi.In fact she was used to speaking either of these two more often even with her parents. She hardly conversed in Malayalam,her mother tongue.
So when she shared this anxiety about what language to speak to her child and how she had been increasingly conversing in Malayalam,lately,I felt as though she wanted her child also to be as aware of his/her mother tongue as much as any other language.
Either it was the love for Malayalam or it was the fact that Radz was thinking so much about her child who’s yet to come into this world that she was making an effort to change herself for her baby,this conversation brought a smile to my face. And it also made me think how essential speaking my mother tongue has been to me.
I have grown up in a family where it was an unwritten law that we were to speak Malayalam and only that,in our house.My parents were very particular that my brother & I conversed only in that language at home. So while Ma didn’t utter a word of Malayalam to us when in school(she taught in the same school that we studied in),at home she was as strict about ensuring we spoke no language other than our native tongue.
We used to go on our annual vacation to Kerala,every year and I don’t remember my brother(far more fluent than me,he somehow got into the skin and brought out the typical malappuram accent the minute he set foot on that soil…still cant understand how does that) & I ever having felt like outsiders when it came to communicating with our relatives or moving around the place. We could enjoy our culture and feel much at home despite being away from home,that much more.And my constant touch with my culture and roots probably made me fall in love with Malayalam and eventually take it up as a special language in school.
What aches me,though,is to see there still are parents around me,who don’t feel its necessary that their children learn to speak their mother tongue as fluently as any other language.Being a Delhi-ite,I’ve come across many such parents who opt to speak to their kin in hindi or english and shun every opportunity to speak to them in their native tongue.
Why go far,I have cousins living in Delhi who never spoke a word of Malayalam their whole life.I’ve witnessed how they used to detach themselves from our other cousins when we visited them in Kerala because they couldn’t communicate well with them.They felt like misfits.
Now some of the parents,mind you,who choose to speak only hindi or english to their children would hardly be getting their grammars or diction right ,in the process giving way for their children to pick up the language the wrong way. Which makes me wonder,is it not better you speak to your child in a language that you are more articulate in and ensure that your child too grasps it in the right manner?
I understand the parents would have the best interest of their children in mind and they would be doing that so that the children don’t struggle in the crowd outside of the comforts of their homes. But Hindi and English,in my opinion,are languages that they would in any case be learning in school and getting enough opportunities to hone better.
Mother tongue,as is mentioned in the Wikipedia,is the first language that a person learns from birth.So is it not better that a child gets to learn his/her first language first,literally?
The situation is not very different in my house too.R prefers that Namnam learns to be conversant in English first.And I am more particular that she gets to speak Malayalam more often.The argument that R gives for his viewpoint is that she should learn the language that she will be using the most in her life,first.And my viewpoint is that she should be fluent in her mother tongue so that she is connected to her roots,her culture.
The language that she will be using the most,English in our case,will be taught to her in any case when she starts going to school. And she can pick up the same while she interacts with her friends which she does quite frequently.But,being aware of her grounding,her values,her culture,will that be taught to her in school? I guess not.That she can learn only from home.
This,and the above mentioned arguments are what I give R to make my stance clear.So the consensus that we have reached is that I speak to her in Malayalam and R converses to her in English.This way she gets to pick up both the languages.
Learning any new language is a matter of pride.And what better way to achieve that than to get started right from home,with your native tongue?
So,what do you think?How important is your mother tongue to you?