When was the last time you spoke to your child/niece/nephew or anybody within your community in your mother language?
Imagine it is getting as rare as the Amazonians.
Plenty of reasons, but first why is this topic important? 21 February is the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO and their theme is “inclusion in and through education”. It got me thinking and I have been observing for a while ever since my nieces and nephew can have a conversation that we just don’t speak in that much Punjabi anymore.
I come from a family where Kirtan or Satsung dominated our weekends and thus for that you need to sing or pray in the mother language, Punjabi. But somehow we never ended up learning to read and write it, speaking it has not been so bad. So if I look back and see why I missed the “education” part of it then here’s what should have happened. I will focus on solutions and not what ifs? Punjabi should have been an option in the GCSE syllabus as easily as Gujarati was. In the home environment we should have attended regular Punjabi classes at the local Gurudwara. Some people might easily respond and say these options were there and maybe I didn’t pay attention. Here’s the thing, a mother language is as much as important as breathing. After all our names are in our language and not Mr or Mrs Smith. Then how come English is so important?
There is no clear history of how language began and I believe there will be a never-ending debate as to which religion, community or people first uttered and designed language. The UNESCO created the International Mother Day for the main purpose of promoting linguistic and cultural existence. However it is unfortunate that there is not being done internally. Imagine reading literature, poetry, books, songs and so much in your mother language. That is a beautiful way of understanding your history, identity and having a richer experience of literary life. But we are so fixated with what the Americans or Europeans are achieving in their history, literature or art. The appreciation for Asian culture is slowly creeping in but I fear that it is overly commercialized and trending rather than being.
If you will not speak to your child whether he or she is 4 or 40 you will not naturally connect. There is a bigger difference in that experience. I challenge you to go and speak to your Grandparents, uncles and anybody in your mother language for this International celebration and experience the personal touch in communication. You will see how easily or maybe not so easily will you understand each other, but at least you will learn something new.
In a professional environment like your office, it is respectable to maintain communication in English. Yet I personally find sometimes talking in your mother language adds flavor to work or especially ideas and discussion. Don’t take it the wrong way as a form of gossip because us Muhindis are so good at passing messages to each other in the office indirectly about other staff. I just feel if you are common in your mother language and nobody else is around, you should feel free to communicate in that. Don’t be rude, just sensitive.
With the UNESCO theme about mother language in Education, I can only say that with the open education of online teaching possibilities, this must be explored. Children should feel proud to officially qualify in their mother language and not bullied or look uncool with their peers. Remember you could get a job as a linguistic in so many institutions such as UN, Diplomatic Offices, Foreign National Corporations and so much more. Don’t let this Western culture intimidate your children or your personality, be yourself. Open up your world of language, talk more with your mother language and maintain it as part of your identity, it is not too late. How do you know you could write the next lyrics to a Bollywood song, a novel in Hindi, or Punjabi poetry or Gujarati play? Give it a chance and see how