February 20, 2014

The world Mother Tongue day - No way to save them?

Today is the world Mother tongue day. I am very possessive about my mother tongue, Gujarati. Forget Gujarati, the tragedy with all regional languages in India is, people who owe their childhood to these languages , who all got nourished through them, they are disowning the language with pride.

I see parents every where who are proud of their kids when they talk to people in English and they struggle to talk in their mother tongues. The baby who is yet to walk on its own , stops crying when her mom shouts in English or calms her down in English. Mothers who don't know English feels guilty when their teenager kids don't respect her. (Movie - English Vinglish!) I have met mothers who ask their kids to play with kids who study in English medium and not in vernacular mediums. It is sad. May be not. It is a curse on us.

English unites the whole nation, it binds the whole world. It is not about not being anti-English. It is about being Pro-Vernacular languages. If it makes sense.

My parents had taken that risk of putting me in a Gujarati medium school (My school is number 1 in vernacular mediums in India and 23rd in all schools -English medium included!) due to my father's firm belief in teaching kids in their kitchen-languages, not even the mother tongues. All my cousins studied in Gujarati mediums, and they all are brilliant on international platforms. In fact I have some cousins whose parents are the live examples of love stories like 'Two states', they all studied in Gujarati medium, now doing awesome in their respective fields. No, they are awesome at the other language they owe too. They chose Gujarati just because of the location.

The fight between vernacular mediums and English mediums schools is over actually after the era I passed my board exams. When families keep on shifting from one state to another state, English medium schools save kids from the struggle, there is no doubt about it. English medium schools have won the battle there after, but we are loosing a big part of our heritage with each progressing year. It may not be right to judge some parents on their selection of languages they want to converse with their kids, I feel sad for what kids are loosing by getting detached from vernacular languages.

My question is, can we teach kids their mother tongue at home? Can we stop being proud of the fact that they cant converse properly in their own languages? Can we start telling them stories in those dying mother tongues? Can we revive those characters of Vernacular languages which nourished our parents? Can we make it a point to keep them attached with their grand parents who can do this task better? Can we encourage them to read those characters in newspapers which they stare and refuse to recognize because they are no more important than English? Can we introduce them to their respective literature heritage if not all? 'Giju bhai ni balvartao for Gujaratis , 'Subhadra Kumari Chauhan ki kavya rachanaye'?

Some people say, knowing one language and expressing feelings is the only need. I do not agree. Nourishing a mind, developing thought processes and creating broader perspective in those tiny minds is the only need. Introducing them to the kids literature which is in the medium those elderly people try to talk to them, or the language they heard from the very first day of their conception in the womb - opens up a better world. I would not say, kids who read a lot in English are not smart, I say kids who can read, write and speak in their mother tongues have different secure world and they can learn English as well with clarity, provided they are not being suppressed by peers studying in English medium schools.

Being able to talk only in English do not make kids smart - That is may be the main point I want to convey. I have seen some thousand people who fail to impress me, even when they started talking in English even before learning 'Namaste'! I always feel, they forget the fact that they pronounced the very first world in their own language, "Ma, Aai or Amma'!

It is disheartening to see kids not learning about those morals each regional language can convey, those regional stories of great people who can become their role models.

I will start with myself. The next generation kids around me will talk to me in Gujarati and Hindi and I will consciously make efforts in opening the vernacular world for them by at least encouraging them to read and write in vernacular languages I know. A promise to myself.

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