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Of languages, mother tongues and more….
One of the most prominent imprint in my life has been the importance of one’s mother tongue. The pride that goes with it, how it is absolutely necessary to speak only in one’s mother tongue; so much so that I almost developed a strong resistance to learn any Indian language. Of course I learnt languages in school and I learnt as I listened to others talking - but I didn’t consciously improve my linguistic skills. Which is sad really as the vernacular is very rich with literature, knowledge and tales of bygone eras.
To start at the beginning, what is mother tongue? That which is spoken at home because we hail from a particular geographical area? Or that which is spoken in the geographical area that we live in? For some the two maybe same, but for some its not the case. Is it important for those who stay away from their original native place to learn the language of the place that they live in? Yes, as it improves communication with others and one learns a new language! :) Also important is to know our mother tongue then so that communication is not hampered when we visit our native place. Therefore it is safe to say that primary function of a language is to communicate. Then, what happens when we are told that one language is more important than the other? What happens when we are told that one language is better than the other. What happens when we refuse to see good literature, good poetry and what have you in other languages?
Now there are some peopler who hold all regional languages in high esteem (mind you many a time there is no effort to learn them, but there is respect) and English is the enemy. And in many cases we are all sent to schools where the teaching medium is English. And then there is a problem if too much English is spoken and the mother tongue takes a back seat. Then there are situations where English is preferred (for the sake of being practical) - say for example there is a phone call from a bank where the person calling maybe sitting thousands of miles away and has been instructed to speak in English and we decide to show the importance of speaking in our mother tongue despite knowing English!!! Why? How does it matter to that blessed soul from wherever he / she is calling that you take pride in your mother tongue?? I mean seriously!!!!
Coming back to mother tongue…. what is the mother tongue of children who are born to parents of different communities? What is their mother tongue? That of their father’s? Or of their mother’s? “Mother Tongue”???? Conservatively speaking these kids will write their father’s mother tongue as theirs too, but then the equality brigade will demand that ideally it should be the mother’s mother tongue that the kids should call their own! (God save the kids!) And of course since the kids go to an English medium school, they need to know English really well. And then learn the National Language (how can you not??) Then also learn a foreign language… it expands one’s horizons….
Is so much brouhaha really needed over languages? While learning languages may come naturally to some and some may like to do it, for some it is a hurdle. To think in one language, express in 4-5 others????? Nothing short of a horror show for some! Then why the force? Is it so important? Isn't communication more important? Why does communication for which languages were constructed in the first place take a back seat and language demands full attention?
I dream of a situation where languages are made a part of one’s life via stories that are told and not asked to read (once we are hooked on to them, we will take efforts to read!!), where prayers are taught in the native along with their meanings, where the origin of some phrases and colloquials are explained - yes there has to be effort on our part if we want someone to learn the language that we want them to learn.. We have to have joy and pride in sharing all the knowledge, only then will it yield fruits of learning. Probably it may not result in fluent spoken skills, but will definitely get that someone to think of this new language as something that is close to his / her heart. Something that he / she will remember with warmth. To force someone to learn, we only get them to know it technically but the essence, the feelings that we want them to absorb is replaced by irritation, sometimes anger - in all - negativity… And pride in one’s language should never result in any kind of negativity..
Is it so difficult? I wonder………