Monday, March 22, 2010

Of Languages...

Tulika Books has announced a Blogathon 1 and the topic is:

How different are the written and spoken forms of your first language? If you want children to become familiar with their first language, which form would you look for in children's books - formal or informal? Why?

The topic is interesting, not simple, but difficult, if it comes up for a debate.

The other day I met a family at a party, small family of father, mother and son. It amazed me to find the parents talking with their child in Hindi and not in the language the parents speak. Are we really ashamed of our first language?

India. The country of Unity in Diversity has so many languages and dialects. Very often in the streets and public places we hear more of spoken English than an Indian language. And following English people prefer to converse with one another in Hindi.

I have had the privilege of learning to speak, read and write in my mother tongue. Being an Indian, apart from English I can read, write and speak 3 other Indian languages and it makes me happy. Though not good with speaking I can understand 2 more regional languages. It gives me a sense of pleasure that at such a time when the first language is losing its grip I’m lucky about languages.

I’ve always encouraged my children to speak in Bengali at home. Knowing more than one language is an advantage and in school where the first language is English there is always the benefit of learning a second language. Being a bilingual is easy nowadays. Then there is the chance of learning the language of the state you’re living in (even if someone is living there for a short time). Learning languages is a personal interest and depends very much on the individual...easy for a child. 

I think the best way of letting the children learn their first language is by reading out stories in their first language from a very young age. They pick up words and understand them and then are able to speak in it. During their long summer holidays, parents or even grand parents can help in this. The children can be made to write and read, like doing a page of handwriting writing regularly, as I pointed out, during their holidays. They can be kept occupied and once they develop an interest they’ll have that good feeling of knowing and learning something new. Creating the interest is of importance and this can be possible to some extent by speaking with the children in their first language at home.

Now I find many youngsters making an effort to learn their first language, for, as they are growing in life they find the feeling of belongingness in this...which they have not been interested in,earlier. Many have started reading books of great regional writers (starting with their translation works in English) and want to know more from their writings. Our regional literature is very rich, and if such a move comes up, regional literature will no doubt get a boost and encouragement. Hope such moves can help in the interest and revival of our regional languages!


  1. It is unfortunate, but it has its reasons.
    In earlier days, there were no inter caste marriages.Now, the same are on the increase and it becomes difficult to carry on with the local language with the new comer at home.

  2. Chowlaji, thanks for your words. I do agree with you about such marriages. But to be very frank, we live in big cities where this is common but not in small towns and even villages.
    Even in such cases the child is lucky to speak the tongue of the mother and father...bilingual from a small age.

    I have seen many girls speaking the language of her husband...intelligent girls, not trying to create language problem for their child.

    This problem can be handled with ease by using one's wits.