The importance of Mother Tongue

English is the new ‘lingua franca’- a bridge language or a dialect used to make communication possible between people who do not share a native language, between people of different cultures and nationalities.  English has replaced other languages or our mother tongues to a vast extent.

“Say Hello”, “Shake Hands” have replaced the gestures of ‘Namaste’ or ‘Pranam’. “Come here”, “Don’t do this’, “Sit down”, have replaced the words synonymous in meaning in other native languages.

English is an extremely important language required to carry out trade and communication globally. One needs to be adept in it to expand his/her potential worldwide. It is a universal mode of communication.

The problem arises when today’s generation uses this language as a fashion symbol and people who aren’t well versed in spoken english are looked down upon. Speaking english is considered to be a status symbol by many. Today’s parents prefer to speak english with their kids, family and friends over their mother tongue. Is it because of convenience or are they ashamed to speak their mother tongue is a question best left to them to answer?

We should try and live with our mother tongue at home and live with English outside our home for the betterment of one self, family, state and country. Our mother tongue is the beacon of our culture and ethnicity. India has sustained its rich and diverse culture because it has kept its many multi-cultural languages alive. Our language not only refers to our culture but symbolises our social group, ancestral history and ethnicity. Our mother tongue is our identity.

Nelson Mandela famously said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his  head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Our mother tongue is our first language. It is that beautiful sound which we first hear in our mother’s womb, even before we step into this world. Sub-consciously it has such a profound impact on shaping our thoughts and emotions. A child has an instant connect with his parents, family, society, culture, history and his identity through his mother tongue.

Many people take for granted the language in which they are born. Some parents erroneously believe that in order for their children to excel at school and learn the second language quickly they should only communicate with their children in the school’s language (commonly English). In fact the opposite is true, as children have a great grasping power and hence, can learn two or more languages at the same time. When parents speak to their children only in the school’s language of instruction, the children end up not being fluent in either their first or second language.

Research states that in families where english is given priority over mother tongue, parents see the linguistic gap between them and their children has widened when their children grow up leading to an emotional disconnect.

The knowledge of mother tongue and fluency in it infuses confidence in the child. Encouraging the kids to speak their mother tongue often and outside their school premises will help them become aware of their social origin, organisation, culture and introduce them to their unique identity within a multicultural society.

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