Language at Home: English or Mother Tongue?
Posted on: September 16, 2021.

Author: Prabhukrishna M, Content Creator/Chief Editor, Yokibu Editorial

With English continuing to reign as the international language of priority for formal communication and dissemination of information…

… and the Indian working community and students being under constant pressure to improvise their oral and written English communication skills, collaterally threatening to dilute the various native tongues…

…for it is not uncommon to hear people mix a lot of informal English words—intentionally or unwittingly—while speaking in the vernacular language…

… one of the members of our reading community wanted to know of its impact on native languages spoken especially at home—

Opinion 1: One of the parents at home must speak the mother tongue, say Marathi if the family is based in Maharashtra, and the other must speak English.

Children of such parents would then speak/understand both the mother tongue—in this case Marathi—and English well.

And, if say, such a family lives in Mumbai—where it is also essential to speak Hindi, the National Language—the children must be allowed to socialize sufficiently to be comfortable speaking Hindi.

Opinion 2: The mother tongue—or native/vernacular language—is the root or base of every person. Fluency and proficiency in this root language which is one of a person’s many ethnogenetic traits…

…is essential for that person to easily grasp other languages and convert his ideas and thoughts into that non-native language.

Although the general medium of communication at school is English, it is recommended for children to develop flair, fluency, and proficiency to write, read and speak in the mother tongue…

…for the added advantage of understanding well the culture, tradition, history, art, architecture, and customs of their respective State, which gives a person a profound identity that eventually leads to self-realization.

Opinion 3: Even having to face such a question as “Mother Tongue vs. English” is proof of the sad state of our children at home, feels another parent…

…who goes on to state that English is a very good and beautiful language—not with a long history though but of rich literature—but not knowing one’s own native language…

… or worse, needing a foreign language to understand it, is pathetic and shameful, as is a person who does not know a word in his or her mother tongue, but which they know in a non-native language.

This particular parent likes English as she has a British granny for a neighbor whom she likes a lot, but she loves her mother tongue just as she loves her mother, whose place no one can take.

Opinion 4: Another parent even finds the question “What language to speak at home?” funny to pose. This parent is of the strong opinion that job/business motive alone must not be the basis…

…for a person to be forced to speak a language, and goes on to state that the reason language evolved in this world is for one person to communicate his/her feeling to another crystal-clearly.

This can be achieved only by conversing in the mother tongue, feels the parent. To enjoy a strong bond with the various members of family, and to communicate how one feels about something…

…everything should be conveyed clearly and effectively, leaving no room for doubt or miscomprehension.

The parent is also strongly against equating something as priceless and timeless as Language—which is life, blood, sense, sleep … everything—with something as whimsical as money.

Opinion 5: Yet another parent shares a viewpoint from the perspective of “linguistic minority people”—a community whose mother tongue—such as Tamil, Konkani, Saurashtra, Bhojpuri, Odia—is the only means…

…that significantly identifies them amidst a national majority that speaks one common language—like Hindi or English, saying that home—and community—is the ultimate place…

…where one can nurture and preserve his/her respective vernacular language, significant to that particular region, as school and workplace demands that all speak in English.

Opinion 6: One parent heard from her pediatrician that a child has the capability to learn up to 6 languages simultaneously. “Consistency is the key”, she says, based on what had worked best in her friends’ circle.

Her opinion is one of generality—children may speak ‘n’ different languages, but a child should be consistent in the language he/she speaks. Otherwise, only confusion prevails.

Opinion 7: Yet another parent, makes a radically different viewpoint to the approach of language from the perspective of children who are aurally, orally, or visually challenged, and code/sign language.

The parent feels that communication—and not a particular language—is important for one to understand another’s feelings or expressions, and there is no point in forcing children to learn any particular language.

Opinion 8: Another parent feels that mother tongue nurtures love, affection, and imagination, while other languages promote communication, integration and development.

Mother tongue is the root of learning and while we speak in many languages, we always think in our native tongue. Children learn language from parents, relatives, and befriending members of school and society.

The general opinion of many more parents is that…

…while keeping the mother tongue as the essential language of communication and expression, children have many opportunities to get exposed to numerous languages—

—mother’s native tongue, father’s native tongue, Hindi, English, or any or all of the South Indian languages, and any one of the Non-Hindi North Indian languages such as Marathi, Bengali, or Punjabi.

The brain of a multi-linguistic child is relatively more stimulated and quicker than that of a mono-linguist, which boosts the child’s confidence and adds to his/her evolving personality.


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