X: “Oh! So, you know Tamil also?”
Me (now smiling): “Oh Yes, I very much do.”
However, such questions as I mentioned above make me wonder, why? Why is it assumed that most South Indians do not speak Hindi which rings as true as a busted myth that most North Indians do not speak English, or just the other way round? Why a few Hindi speaking people often forget that because Hindi is their mother tongue, they are fluent in it just as we Tamilians are in Tamil. Tamil is our mother tongue, as much as Bangla is for Bengalis, Marathi is for Maharashtrians and Gujarati is for Gujaratis and so on. However, that is not what prompted me to write this post. I almost believed that most of us South Indians may have faced this issue until I was surprised by a close friend who complained to me, over a casual chat that her child does not speak in their mother tongue at all. Of course, I am not sure whether she was actually complaining or feeling otherwise (glad) about the fact that her child refused to or did not understand the language. As, I have observed this in many Tamilians who refuse to speak in Tamil and would endlessly chat in any other language but their mother tongue, just to ‘fit in the crowd’. And this uncivilized habit carries forward when people start bantering even as they realize that there are people of yester-generation sitting midst them, who may not necessarily understand what is being spoken. And, it is this thinking that brings me to the crux of my post, “Do you love your mother tongue?”. Because, if you don’t, you should. And, here is to why mother tongue is important, especially for a growing child.
- When a child is born, the first language it learns is touch of the mother and the aura of her presence that shields the child, giving him the much needed assurance and security he needs, as he takes his first whiff of the surroundings. And, the second language he learns, are the kind words, the mother uses to communicate with him. This language is the mother tongue, the language that brings with it, a bond of love.
- As the child grows, his cognitive abilities increase as he learns myriad expressions in his mother tongue, grasps the words being spoken around and tries to apply the words and expressions appropriately, thereby expressing self with an individuality. Hence, this first language brings in clarity in thoughts and actions of a growing child, as young as a toddler.
- Then, there are many aspects of nature that are better expressed in mother tongue, especially the art of story telling and songs. For instance, when I first tried explaining to my son about moon, he did understand. However, there was a lack of interest. Then, when I sang a small Tamil rhyme showing him the moon in the night, “Nila, Nila, Odi va. Nillamal odi va!” (Nila means Moon in Tamil), he immediately correlated it and said, “Ma! Nila means moon”. And he further surprised me with, “Ma! Nila in tamil, moon in English, In Hindi what?” . The question led him learning a few words in the third language Hindi, besides learning his first language Tamil and second language, English simultaneously. Grasping power increases manifold when mother tongue is spoken at home.
- Mother tongue is one of the best ways to bond with people. I believe, it plays an indispensable part in building up strong social relations. Also,it helps a person become confident and independent in more ways than one, as he/she does not grow with a feeling of ‘trying to fit in a crowd’. It helps a growing child chisel a dynamic identity of his own. And so, he merges flawlessly in any crowd he wants to. He never has the need to barge/try/beg to ‘fit in’.
- Lastly, mother tongue is an integral part of every person’s identity. Notwithstanding social and peer pressures, it helps a person think in different ways besides fueling his imagination. Fluency in first language always paves way for creative abilities, a penchant for learning foreign languages, academic excellence and a healthy social life. After all, it is the language that heart and mind understands alike.
In umpteen occasions, I have found people refraining from conversing in their mother tongue, either out of a wasted thought of ‘Log kya kahenge’or out of a false pride in throwing around a facade, “Oh! I am not one of those uncouth regionals!”. And, I don’t blame people for such blatant display of their misconstrued personalities. Because, besides home and school, there are many other factors that decide a person’s physical and mental growth. But the strength of not having to give in to the building pressures of peers and other social elements comes from a strong bond with the language spoken at home. It opens up the mind like a parachute giving us a perspective to look at everything differently.
So, do you love your mother tongue? 🙂
P.S: I am proud for a fact, that my three year old son is fluent in speaking and understanding Tamil. he is gradually picking up Hindi and English and does make a lot of errors. But that does not stop him from interacting more and more with people around, even as he is corrected more often by us and our friends. After all, first language is the mother of all languages. Isn’t it?