Mother tongue-how essential is it in your life?

**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?


33 thoughts on “Mother tongue-how essential is it in your life?

  1. I vote for mother tongue. I would hate to talk to my kids in English – I don’t think you can crack any PJs in English πŸ˜› I mean you can be funny but its not as effective as done using mother tongue. I have seen several parents talk only in English “No no my kid can’t handle 2-3 languages” I tell ya, once more I hear this line I am going to kill them!!! Cos’ its SO annoying, that theory is absolute BS. We spoke Kannada at home, Tamil, English at school and Hindi since it was our 2nd language.

    D:My mom too says that kids grasp languages much faster than we do so it does a lot of good to them if they get to hear more than one language at home πŸ™‚

    And yes, when they come visiting India they feel like they don’t belong. My cousins belong to this category and NO i never used to talk to them. Hey! Is it my fault you didn’t learn Kannada/Tamil?! I won’t speak to you in your English. I know I am evil. I don’t care πŸ˜›


  2. Love the conversation u had with yourself and shared it with us..both i feel are equally important, but as i grew up what polished my tulu language is what i learnt within the house and with my grandparents and the skills needed to polish my English was my socialising skills outside home.
    So, i feel one cannot choose one above the other..but both can be developed in two different environments

    D: Yes thats another way of looking,Rush.I wont say either that Malayalam has more weightage in my life than English or Hindi but it is as important to me as the other two. I cant think of coochi-cooing with my daughter or being cuddled by my parents in a language other than Malayalam πŸ™‚



    D:Yes I’ve come across many myself. The very same people who take so much pride when they tell us they are proficient in Spanish,French,German,etc etc…and know zilch when it comes to their native tongue,as though it a status symbol to them!


  4. Deeps, My take is simple in this. I use language as a mode of communication. So I have always spoken a mixture of Malayalam, English and Hindi and still do. Never felt anything wrong in it. I really don’t care if some Malayalis judge me for my accent or wrong usage of words either.

    Peanut understands Malayalam but she is more comfortable in English because there is not a single Malayali kid around and all her friends are Americans so that’s the only language she uses. As long as she converses with her grandparents and relatives and has no problem mingling with her cousins in India, I am fine.

    D:Absolutely. That is exactly what I want for Namnam. She should be able to convey herself well and be comfortable in the language she speaks.


  5. First things first. The header is awesome! I love the curls on Namnam. πŸ™‚

    D: Thanks heaps,’re a sweetheart! (((Hugs)))

    Ok here`s my stand. I completely agree with R.
    D:R is going to be mighty happy with this new-found support πŸ™‚

    Children need to be fluent in the language they`ll most use. Having said that, let me add that children pick up multiple languages faster and with far greater ease than adults. There`s a scientific explanation for that, which I will not go into right now. So, what you`re doing is just perfect, given that she`ll pick up both languages with equal ease. But here`s my qstn.
    Why dont you teach her hindi then? Is she not an indian? doesnt she need to know her ‘rashtriya bhasha’? Isnt that important enough? So you see, such qstns never end, Deeps!

    D:Mishy, R& I speak with each other mostly in Hindi and occasionally in Malayalam(when we get into a fight,to be precise…I can be at my nastiest best only in mother-tongue,you see πŸ˜‰ ). Malayalam is used at all times when I speak to Namnam and when we are at my parents’ . So our rashriya bhasha is very much used in my household and I absolutely agree that it is as important.

    I dont agree(for once!) with your stand that the baby will stay connected to her roots/her culture if she`s fluent in her mother tongue. May be to some extent yes. But just learning a language will not teach her anything extra about her culture than a ‘non-mother tongue speaking child’! Yes, its pbly a good place to start, if that`s how you what it to be. But I strongly feel that Language is just a medium of communication. It doesnt necessarily have to become a bone of contention. Really it doesnt.

    D:I’m not saying knowing your mother tongue is the only way to stay connected to your roots but it certainly helps and adds to it. πŸ™‚


  6. Thank you,people for your responses. R is at home,which means I’m forbidden to even loiter around my comp. Will respond to each and everyone of you later in the day.Please excuse me till then. Keep your thoughts about the post coming in though πŸ™‚


  7. Hmm. The post made me think. I agree the final aim is to just get ur thoughts across, but there are a few things which lose their charm when I translate them into any other language other than the mother tongue. So, the exact meaning can be conveyed when I converse in the mother tongue only. And also, I completely agree that its not at all diff for children to pick up languages. They do a job better than all adults. My hubby’s niece speaks Kannada which is our mother tongue, Hindi which is what her paternal side speaks, English which she has picked up from school n friends n Sanskrit too which her father is a professor in. And she knows what language she has to use with whom.
    I think we feel a lot @ home when we converse in the Mother tongue and I feel very diff. Though I studied in Central syllabus n picked up only Hindi n English at school, Kannada is still very close to my heart and one li’l chance when I get to use it, I feel elated. To each his own; that’s just my take πŸ™‚

    :D: I was quite fortunate that I got to study Malayalam,English and Hindi,all three from the same school which helped me a lot πŸ™‚


  8. Hi Deepti,
    First of all thanks for visiting my blog and those inspiring words of yours.

    D:Awww…your welcome. I am the gladder to have got a chance to read your posts,trust me πŸ™‚

    Now this is one subject which I was/ am always passionate about that is about ‘mother tongue’. Like you I also took up Malayalam in school even after 8th, and my inspiration was , yes u guessed it right, Chandrika teacher. She made me understand the importance of it and moreover I was very very good in it, In fact I won many prizes in essay writing competition in Malayalam. Oflate I had been struggling with my elder daughter to make her learn how to write and read malayalam, I cant imagine her being deprived of the privilige of reading such a valuable treasure of malayalam literature, but even during the holidays, inspite of bringing her books from Kerala to make her study how to write has proved futile. She speaks fluently but doesnt show any inclination, at least now, to take it up for writing.

    D:I can understand your feelings,Rekha and your love for Malayalam. But my sincere advice,if your daughter is not showing an inclination for learning to read and write Malayalam I feel its better to leave it at that.She speaks the language well,doesn’t she?And you’re happy with the way she manages herself when she goes to Kerala too.And thats great!Whenever she is keen to learn to read and write Malayalam,I’m sure she will be more forthcoming.Till then,I’d say,wait.

    You are doing a good job Deepti, Namnam will be thankful to you for making her proficient in her mother tongue, and if she develops a fondness for reading she would definitely ask for learning how to read and write Malayalam too.

    You can see my passion for this subject by the length of my comment, well…w ell.. keep up the good work Deepti.

    God bless

    warm regards

    D:Thank you so very much for the kind words,Rekha.They really mean a lot:)
    God Bless you and your family.


  9. Deeps, I agree with everything you say here. I talk to my daughter – mainly in Malayalam. I used to talk to her only in Malayalam – but started English around the time she was 1.5 years old so that she is comfortable speaking to people here.
    My husband is supposed to be talking to her in Hindi – his mother tongue – but he has been doing a dismal job at it πŸ™‚

    D: LOL! With R too it was the same…he literally used to make me want to pull his hair in despair whenever he spoke Malayalam.You know how we say,’bhaashaye vadhikkaa’..yes,that what he used to do. Thankfully now since he hears Namnam & I speak the language,he is getting better by the day πŸ˜€

    I think language is a means of communication and in my opinion, she should know her mother tongue as it is part of her heritage. Why should I not let her learn something which is part of her identity. That and the fact that knowing Malayalam – which is a tough language – has made it easier to understand and learn other languages – it helps. When I was in Tamilnadu – I picked up Tamil quite quickly. I can speak Bengali and understand Gujrati -so I think the more languages you know – the better. And since research shows that it is easier for children to pick up mutliple languages – why not?

    And one thing I abhor is how people are ‘proud’ that they cannot speak their mother tongue. It just does not make sense to me.

    D:Smits I’ve even come across some parents who proudly announce that they children cant speak their mother tongue and that really puts me off!

    I have cousins too , who talk only in Hindi or English – and as you say – they do feel like misfits when they visit Kerala.. I somehow don’t like it. I would rather that my daughter is able to fit in wherever she went. I don’t speak very pure Malayalam but as I started speaking to daughter – I found my expertise in it increasing πŸ™‚ And I had Malayalam as my 3rd language in school too πŸ™‚ Our school had that option and to be honest – then I used to hate it – but I really appreciate it today. I am not sure if I will be able to teach my daughter to read/write Malayalam – but I certainly want her to be able to talk. Right now, she understands it perfectly but prefers responding in English. So I keep trying to get her to respond in Malayalam.


  10. Well we are kutchi’s… but amazingly the entire generation of our cousins apart from 3 speak only gujarati… the other 3 speak hindi or tamil… !!!! english is the second language of all… and kutchi is the third… we can understand and cant speak fluently…

    but does it matter ???

    can we ever speak our mother tongue without using english… !!
    languages are to communicate… ! simple…

    D: Dhiren, I spent the formative years of my life with my maternal grand parents and I remember how they used to tell me about my ancestors,my customs,our heritage,etc. They had so much wisdom and experiences to share.That wouldnt have been possible if I had not known my mother tongue as that was what they were more proficient in. So I believe my knowledge in my native tongue really helped me in knowing a lot about my grounding. I’m not saying that was the only reason.But it certainly added πŸ™‚


  11. did you get my comments….i’ve typed twice and the page just goes blank so i don’t know if it’s submitted or not?

    D:This and the one about your picture tag were the only two that I got. And this time again they went to the spam queue !!! Something is seriously wrong with WP settings


    1. Uff…I had written twice about my thoughts on this post and they were really long…Now I don’t remember it nor do I have the energy to write another.

      BTW, I goggled about this…just make sure that you unspam the comment so that gradually askimet realize that it is NOT spam. I’ve written to them to check this.

      D: There is seriously something wrong somewhere! Forget it…I check my spam too so no worries,your comments will not go unnoticed πŸ™‚


  12. Hey Deeps, I wasn’t talking about ME asking you those qstns. I was just generally talking of people – you know – if someone asks about the mother tongue, someone else might come up with rashtriya bhasha and so on and so forth…That`s what I meant πŸ™‚ As for roots and culture, a child will understand nothing of it.

    D: Namnam may not understand about her roots and culture now,but I can always start with the process right in her formative stages,na! And,Mish,I feel I can do that easier and in a more justifying manner if I can talk to her about it in her mother tongue.

    One pbly tends to get curious about one`s roots after the hormone surge of youth has subsided and one tends to start living one`s life – if you know what I mean! πŸ™‚ That`s when children become adults and start reading up.. πŸ™‚ Am I making any sense at all? I guess not.. so I should stop arguing just for the heck of it and shut up now! Dont mind my mindless banter. PMS, girl!! Not my fault! πŸ™‚

    D: mindless??? oh no,Mishy.I dont think what you said was mindless. I perfectly understand your viewpoint and I’m glad you put forth your opinions here. A coin has two sides,right?And you showed me the other side. Simple πŸ™‚


  13. I think you’re going about it the right way. And Hindi isn’t the “rashtriya” bhasha -that’s a myth. it’s an official language.

    D: Thanks,Ra for that enlightenment πŸ™‚


  14. Deeps this is a very interesting topic πŸ™‚ and I read it yesterday too πŸ™‚

    I think any language if it is not forced or shunned is the perfect language for a kid to speak πŸ™‚

    forced in the sense that when a kid is told to (my cousin was) ‘learn’ a particular language then he/she will start disliking it…

    D: Absolutely. In fact,anything,for that matter,Abhi,if you force a child to do or learn,he/she is bound to avert it. I have seen my cousin losing interest in music because she was being forced to learn it as against dancing which she preferred.

    I want my kids to be comfy too πŸ™‚ that they should be able to adjust anywhere without a communication gap πŸ˜€ (I am talking like I am already a mom πŸ˜€ )

    the sad thing is Deeps that there is a dearth of good published literature in regional languages in India…

    I think both you and R are right to an extent regarding namnam πŸ™‚

    R is right coz Namnam ultimately has to be a global are right coz you want Namnam to know more about her roots..and her family here.. πŸ™‚

    I think it will be a nice balance πŸ™‚

    D: Thank you,dear.Now you got that spot on! See,this is why I say your children are blessed to have you as a teacher. You know children so well. And I’m equally sure you’ll make an excellent mom too πŸ™‚

    PS:- I LOVE the header πŸ˜€

    D: Thanks again πŸ™‚ ((( double hugs)))


  15. hey, I agree, 100 PERCENT, I am proud of my mother tongue and I go to great lengths to ensure that both of them love their mother tongue and their hometown too! I too know of some who feel embarrassed to say that they are Mallus, I am not!
    Great One, Deeps

    D:Here’s to our ‘maatru-bhaasha’!! πŸ˜€


  16. I loved the write up and I liked the consensus you and R reached – fair trade – each gets to keep his share of the cake πŸ™‚

    D: πŸ˜‰

    As you rightly said, Mother tongue is important to connect to ones roots and one should always respect it . Mine being a cross cultural wedding, I wonder what lang my kids are gonna pick, but if they pick my mother tongue, I would be so might proud.
    And MT does help you connect so well to your roots. Terms of endearment, anger, sympathies, respect , all these are best communicated in the MT only. I love the way Indian languages have the aap, tu and tum concept. And so many others. English lacks big time in this. It eases a lot of stuff but then robs many beautiful aspects too…

    D: Absolutely,Amrita. The use of aap,tum does make a lot of difference. It commands so much respect.I remember when I used to visit my cousins in Bombay,how perplexed they would look when I would be talking to them all ‘respectfully’ using aap and tum where necessary! They were more used to using ‘tu’, ‘apun’,etc. So being treated so well was something they found hard to digest πŸ˜€

    Hope Namnam picks both the languages with equal ease πŸ™‚
    D: I hope so too πŸ™‚

    tht was a biggie comment


  17. Agree with you COMPLETELY!!
    Both my husband and I make it a point to speak in BENGALI & only BENGALI at home.
    As you said, they pick up other languages from school & friends…
    Now my 3 & a half yr old speaks Bengali, English, Hindi & Telegu(we live in HYderabad!)

    D: Wow!Thats wonderful…four languages,huh?? πŸ™‚


  18. Deeps,

    My husband is a Konkani while i am a bengali.. I speak to my daughter, who is 3.5 yrs in bong while her dad speaks in konkani.. she does all the english speaking in her nursery… my daughter didnt speak sentences till she was 2+ and everyone around us kept blaming her lack of vocubulary on our persistence that she needs to speak both bong and konkani.. but once she started there is no stopping her… moral of the story.. i fully agree that mother tongue, father tongue everything is essential.

    D: Absolutely,Jayeeta…the more you introduce your child to different languages,the better.And its even more worthwhile when you start doing that with his/her mothertongue. Kids grasp much better and faster than we do πŸ™‚


  19. Hmmm….I spoke (still do though there has never been any compulsion) to my children in Malayalam because that came to me naturally, not with any thought about culture or roots. But when they grew up, among themselves they started conversing in Hindi. I never stopped it or insisted that they speak in Malayalam. I hate language chauvinism. Every language has its beauty and I don’t believe mine is any special or better than any other or that the world will come to an end for my kids if they don’t learn Malayalam. I would be equally happy if we conversed in Telugu, French, Spanish, Assamese, Tulu, Punjabi or even Swahili as long as we understood each other. If my children in the future use some other language to talk to their children I would be equally happy. And if at all I am unable to communicate with my grandchildren, aren’t we going to have fun teaching each other new words and laughing at all the comic situations that arise?? After all ‘smiles and laughter’ are the universal languages and will be more than enough for me.

    D: I speak Malayalam to my daughter because I feel that will help her in staying connected to her grounding.Because,later she may not get to speak it that much once she starts going to school.Thats how I was brought up by my parents and I’m very proud of my upbringing.My parents did make sure my brother & I spoke our native tongue at home.But I dont think,by doing that they were being language chauvinists.They never preached that the mother tongue was supreme,they gave it as much importance as the other two primary languages that we were exposed to.

    My grouse is against the holier than thou attitude of the people back home. They would be waiting to pounce on us when we reach home for holidays so that fingers can be pointed gleefully ( oh the happiness that it gives them!) at you for not teaching children Malayalam. The air goes out of them the minute they find out that my children can speak Malayalam (as if it is any of their business anyway!). Then comes the next question, “Can they WRITE Malayalam??” Sure enough advice galore follows when they find they cannot, on how it is imperative that they know about their culture, language roots blah blah and blah. Excuse me, I beg to differ. I only put emphasis on one thing in my upbringing and that is on being a good human being and that can be achieved in any language or culture. So I simply keep my mouth shut. I will always support the children if they want to learn new languages. Learning something new is always good. But neither will it be the end of the world for me if they choose not to speak Malayalam.

    D: I have come across people proudly announce that their children cant speak their mother tongue as though speaking the tongue would be some kind of a let down and that is what turns me off. I had a neighbor whose children didnt utter a word of malayalam,and when they heard their mother speak to us in the language they would start mocking at us.Now that is wrong,na!Not knowing a language is not the end of the world,yes. But learning anything should be welcome.

    You will notice that never once did I use the term β€˜mother tongue’. To tell you the truth it sort of gets on my nerve. Recently this was what I twitter-ed and had as my status message at FB too. It is my own quote,
    “Everyone has a mother and mothers have tongues. So what is special about one particular tongue?? Language chauvinism bores me to tears”

    D: Like I mentioned in the post,mother tongue as per wikipedia is the first language that a child hears from his/her birth.And that first language,invariably is heard from the mother’s womb,if I may say so.

    Sorry if my comment offends you. But it is my honest expression of how I feel about the issue.
    D: Thank you for your honest opinions πŸ™‚


    1. @Shail, Once again I agree with you 100%. I have the same attitude towards language and never had any problem connecting with anyone because of language barrier.

      This mine is better than yours and all that complex irks me too but then I think it is their way of thinking. I don’t necessarily agree to their line of thought and they needn’t with mine.

      Peanut doesn’t speak Malayalam but she understands and I am totally fine with it. I see her connect very well with every one back home too. She loves going to India every year. I have seen many who speak their mother tongue at home but have no connection with anyone back home. So from my POV, it just doesn’t matter to me.


  20. “Everyone has a mother and mothers have tongues. So what is special about one particular tongue?? Language chauvinism bores me to tears”

    Well said, Shail.


  21. Well, you seem to have got me wrong about language ‘chauvinism’. Parents insisting that their children speak the ‘mother tongue’ is not what I meant by it, not at all. What was in my mind was those people who create trouble for all concerned by insisting their own language is the best and insist schools teach in regional languages, insist that the boards, forms etc all be in regional language only… such things and also those others who agree with that. They are the chauvinists for me.
    More than people who insist that their children don’t speak their ‘mother tongue’ (whom I dismiss as foolish for their belief that speaking a regional language will somehow demean them) my ire is indeed against the holier than thou people back at home. Leave aside the fact that they have never faced the difficutly of moving from state to state and sometimes every year, some of them know next to nothing about the ‘culture’ of our state. (I have an Italian sister-in-law who knows more. She does not even speak Malayalam. And also cousins who have grown up in different parts of the globe who are more attached to the culture and ethos of the state and are more aware of it too.) But these people still act superior just because they can ‘speak’ and ‘write’ Malayalam. That is what puts me off and makes me question this ‘love’ for mother tongue. Besides, the Trivandrumites think the Ernakulam Malayalm is weird and vice versa, the Thrissur people look askance at Kasargode Malyalam and again vice versa. Kottayam people think they are the best.
    D:Yes,I’ve noticed that too when I’ve been to Kerala.People from one part of the state find it really amusing when they hear malayalam being spoken with a different accent in another part.And that forms a subject of ridicule very often which puts me off too.
    Shail I’m not saying knowing your mothertongue is the be-all-end-all to knowing about your roots,but it can certainly add to the benefit of staying connected.

    By the Wiki description, if I had started talking to my children in English while they were in the womb, then English would have been their ‘mother tongue’!!
    D:Technically thats how it should be.If a mother is more comfortable and more used to speaking in English then thats what the child is going to pick up as the first language from the birth.But in our country with its diverse nature,Shail,we have so many different languages that it so happens that children are exposed to those many right from their birth.And what bothers me is when I see parents who despite not knowing English very well insist on speaking to their children in that language only(it happens quite often here),and not in a tongue they are more articulate in.

    A case in point,once I was in a video shop in Muscat and there was this father-son duo who had come to rent a movie.Now this boy must have been not more than 6 or 7years old. His father was showing him collections of movies and every time the son was asked(in English),’hows this movie,son?’ the son responded by saying,’oh no,dad,its CRAP!’ And this father in question was all gleaming with his son’s choice of words. I,personally was a bit taken aback by the word CRAP being used by so small a child.But it was clear his father was not.Please pardon me for saying this,but I’ve to mention here that the father’s English was not very good.So it was quite possible that he didnt realize how absurd his son sounded.

    I’m not negating noble intentions of the parents for their kin nor am I demeaning English.All I’m trying to say is why cant they acknowledge the language they grew up hearing and speaking?If not anything their children will be adding one more language in their kitties!
    Goodness,this comment window has become a post in itself πŸ˜€

    Or since they grew up listening to Hindi /Punjabi and Telugu between the two of them, which should I claim as their ‘mother tongue’ because they hardly heard any Malayalam at all?? πŸ™‚ BTW I also know a fair smattering of Telugu which is what I studied in school for 4 years as my second language, understand Tamil (which most Mallus understand anyways) and also Kannada which I can read a little bit too, apart from Hindi.
    D: Thats impressive πŸ™‚

    I am from a family that has contributed much in the field of Malayalam literature. In fact my great grandfather is one of the Mahakavis of the state. I am proud of him and his achievements in his field, not the language itself. By what quirk of Fate I know not I was born in Kerala. I could have been born anywhere and then, that language would have been said to be mine. I prefer to think they are ALL equally mine.

    I simply don’t like the way people fight over language. That was the gist of what I wrote.
    Thanks for listening to my rant πŸ™‚ and with patience, may I add??
    D: Shail,please dont say thank you and all.You said what you felt and I appreciate you for putting forth your views the way you did.I welcome any kind of arguments so long as they are healthy. πŸ™‚


  22. I think mother tongue is very important for kids to learn.English,they pick up in 1 week at school/daycare but mother tongue should be emphasized at home.

    D: Welcome to my space,Sara:) .Yes,mothertongue is as important as any other language.


  23. Am I glad I chanced upon this post too!!

    For it is a topic close to my heart πŸ™‚ As Shail has said, the natives back home have this sense of superiority, especially for NRKs [that is the latest lingo I guess, for some of us who grew up out of “state”], and their manner of speaking.

    D:Yes,I’ve come across some myself and they annoy me to no end.

    Every opportunity I get at school, I remind each of those who go on about accents, and ways of speaking, and of course in the process politely deriding one’s efforts to speak the language, of how at least we do speak it. So .. PLEASE.. just quit, and get off your HIGH HORSE πŸ™‚

    D: Exactly…if they cant acknowledge the fact that we can speak the language well,so be it…but why be critical about our accents and such futile things?

    13 years here, in Kerala, and I am now able to give as I used to take it. Lol!
    D: LOL!I loved what you said…to give as you take it.That should be the policy πŸ™‚

    But yes, Deeps, I do understand your point on the need for the young ones to at least know the language, and be able to communicate in it. My brothers can speak Mal. not read and write, but I was interested, so I made the effort to learn. Luckily my relatives were kinder.

    However after marriage, and landing in Thrissur, I faced the brunt of not being able to speak without an accent :D! I was told I spoke the lang. as a foreigner would. Lol. Mind you, I took it as a compliment, though they did not mean it as such. There is no other district in Kerala, I must confess where NRKs, and their mannerisms are as taunted as in Thrissur. [This too, I use every opportunity to remind others here, grown ups and kids alike] What a monster I am, aren’t I?

    D:You’re not,Ushus,instead you’re doing a favour by alerting us all of such morons πŸ˜€ !

    Still, it is the fondness for the language that ensured my kids would speak it, and the younger one, though he had only one year of it at school, enjoys the mal. newspapers enormously, and keeps me updated :P!

    D: Wow,thats wonderful to hear πŸ™‚

    Language chauvanism, as Shail has stated, is what is happening these days. Sad but true, that simply on the basis of whether you know or not, thy MT, thou art judged. That is incredibly stupid, esp in a country like India. It is another matter altogether to know it, and speak it, for certain principles you have, all of them noble πŸ™‚

    D: Yes,Ushus,every language has its own importance and its wrong to consider any one more superior to the other.My mothertongue brings me closer to my heritage and I feel if I speak to Namnam in the same language,it will help her too staying connected to hers.Having said that I’ve as much regard for the other languages too,which is why R & I dont stop her from speaking english or hindi wherever required in our household.

    I admire the way you have ensured that Namnam gets the best of both worlds, as Indygurl has said, she needs them for what she will become, and where she has come from, and with both her parents ready to help her with it, she will ease into it comfortably πŸ™‚
    D: Thank you.So nice of you to have said that.I hope she does grasp the best of both the worlds πŸ™‚

    Finally [gosh! this is such a long note, excuse, please!], kids are great linguists. It really is easy for them to pick up languages in their formative years. It is only when they are forced to that it gets stuck πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the post, and letting me go on like this Deeps πŸ™‚ *Whew*

    D: Thank YOU to have shared your thoughts here,Ushus.They have been enlightening as always πŸ™‚


  24. Quite an engaging debate on this post Deeps, very interesting!

    We have not made any conscious effort to teach our children our mother tongues(growing up we talked in both tamil and malayalam at home). Whenever my parents are visiting or when we are in India, S does pick up a lot more and speaks the language well. When back here, she is back to English as she spends most time in school.

    I agree on lot of comments above. What matters is that they can communicate well.


  25. I agree with the mother tongue bit because there are some things which can be only expressed in that tongue! They cannot be translated and if done too will never convey the same thoughts, the tone or the tembre πŸ˜€ πŸ˜›

    There are times when AB and I fumble for words to explain something to each other and end up speaking our mother tongues and we just laugh out loud and then try again πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

    And I agree to the other point u made, whatever language you learn, learn it well fully, grammar, pronunciation and usage right

    And I feel like kicking those people who proudly proclaim their ignorance of their MT!!!


  26. Hi!

    I will I say that I partially agree with you and also partially agree with Shail. Knowing the ‘mother tongue’ would be a great thing to help kids know culture and the roots, but IMO, it’s not something that is considered a life and death situation because children still can receive knowledge about their culture through other means (food, festivals..etc). There are kids I know who can’t even understand a single word of malayalam but can discuss traditions, do dances..etc. However there is a big controversy of the term “mother tongue”. A lot of people say it’s the kids’ native origins, but many also say that it is where you grow up. So if you grow up in North India though you are of south Indian origin, it would Hindi..etc. I consider mine as English as I grew up in the west, but define myself as an Indian-American since I experienced both cultures.

    That said, I can speak and understand Malayalam. I’m not completely fluent and I speak with an American accent, but does it bother me? No. I pretty much learned the language during a few Kerala trips b/c my cousins made it fun and encouraging, and even though there were some chauvinistic malayalaees who point out the way I speak, I learned not to give a rat’s butt about it, since they really don’t know any better.Kerala Malayalees tend to be narrow-minded and criticize every single fault they can find, that’s why it’s hard for outsiders to deal with them. Just being honest. I hardly speak Malayalam, speak English to my parents and everyone, but do use it for those who really cannot speak English like my grandparents. So I would say, it would nice if your child can learn it, but don’t make it into a burden!

    And I agree that language should NOT be forced! You force, you risk failing in your kids knowing the language and also you risk your kids not wanting to deal with the culture or roots since this will leave a negative impression on them. I have been there and it left a bad taste in my mouth and also a tiny negative outlook towards some people. When you take your kid to Kerala, make it seem like a living abroad experience and from that, she’ll more likely learn the culture and language instead of forcing her. If she does not speak or is hesitant, it’s not a big deal. She can still show love and affection towards other means. Even though my Malayalam skills are not perfect and though sometimes I struggle my grandparents know I love them and they love me and my brother back. We still have the connection and strong bond with each other. So embrace her for who she is, and even though she is not all to perfect, she is no less.


  27. I completely agree with you , Jana, when you say that language should not be forced. Forcing a child would only make her/him averse to the very idea, I understand. And this is precisely the reason why my husband and I haven’t been adamant about our daughter picking up Malayalam when she showed more keenness towards English. Having said that I do converse to her in Malayalam whenever I can. Lately she has been showing interest in speaking to me in the laungauage…in fact recently while narrating the story of mahabali, she insisted that I narrate it to her in Malayalam. In her words, “Amma, why don’t you tell some parts in Malayalam and some parts when I don’t understand, in English?” πŸ™‚

    All I want for her is to stay connected to her mother tongue just as well as she stays in touch with other languages, to not feel out of place when she goes home and are spoken to in the language. I agree there are other ways to stay connected to he roots, but learning your mother tongue would only add to the benefit in the long ru πŸ™‚


  28. Well that’s good she’s starting to get a kick for another language. Just keep it like that, and advice I have heard from others is do not insult/compare/criticize her. If she makes a mistake, you can help her correct it. Making mistakes helps with improvement and also is encouraging.

    “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.”

    Forgot to mention this, but instead of allowing of them to become “misfits”, how about encouraging them to join in even if they speak English/Hindi and have them try to speak Malayalam? You know like a visit abroad kind of type where people from a different culture learn the new country and values?I don’t know, I never really spoke Malayalam either until I was about 17ish. But maybe b/c my cousins and my grandparents made it seem as a living abroad experience you know. Even though they knew my brother and I understand, but generally didn’t speak, they still speak to us and tell us stories (well my cousins did speak to in a mix of English and mallu) because we can understand it. I personally felt welcomed and yes I started to speak more of the language.

    However, still I am probably a misfit due to other things and since I have a more open perspective in which I recently learned Kerala malayalees do not tolerate and I was downgraded for it. But that’s a different story I’ll save for later.


  29. Well,

    I was born in the north but moved back to Kerala when I was an infant, and then moved again when I was 16 years old. Obviously I speak, read and write Malayalam. My kids however, are growing up in the north. My wife and I normally speak Malayalam to them (and sometimes Hindi and English too), and they do understand well, just that they speak Hindi to us as that is what they are comfortable with. Now when we go to Kerala, they can speak and have casual conversations, although they are not fluent, they speak with an accent and their grammar is off, but it does not bother me or my wife. They also learned to read a little bit just for fun too lol (though they didn’t strictly stick with it). I feel just to let them take their course of action. I will say I think it’s important for the kids to at least understand the language, but it’s ok if they don’t speak in that language. And like others said, don’t force, make fun of, insult..etc, it will backfire. I’m not bothered if kids speak Hindi to me, they know and are familiar with Kerala culture and we celebrate and follow the customs along with North Indian culture. That should be enough.

    I also do not understand the issue with accents, and I agree with Shail that natives back home are little bit too judgemental. Not only with the language issue, but they boast too much on other things, and in my experiences interfering too much and critical of everything. So kind of like Jana said, even if we know the language very well, but do not have the same mindset, more open and have different thinking, we are still misfits because we don’t follow their standards. I personally do not like that and do not want my kids to be in a very narrow world (although now in Kerala it’s slowly changing too). That’s why we include other cultures in addition to Kerala culture so that their horizons are broadened and they become better people. We should be respect and welcome each other despite what qualifications we have or what we lack. We are all human in the end. Perhaps the way they are is because they are still communist? But I am not bothered the way my kids speak. They learn better on their own. I do. I want them to explore on their own and develop into their own unique beings. I feel that’s vital.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s