How to make your Mother Tongue work for the success of the child

It’s the most common misconception that the elite people of the world will only think and talk English and they don’t have any other second language. But if you dig deeper, research always proves the fact that the most successful people in the world are the ones who have excelled in their mother tongue and still has solid connections with their mother tongue. But then, where did this misconception about “People treating us cultured only if we speak in English” cropped up in our minds? It’s to do with the colonial rule that our forefathers have seen and the people who were successful at that point in time were the ones who spoke English. But, what our forefathers forgot conveniently at that point in time was that all those who were successful had their school education only in their mother tongue.

Wondering, why I am talking about the expertise in the mother tongue when the entire world is moving towards English. Yes, it’s a known fact that English is the widely spoken language. This post is not to undermine the importance of English or anything of that sort. This post aims at the importance of mother tongue in the success of any child on the eve of the #International Mother language day that was celebrated on 21st February 2021.

Importance of International Mother Language Day by UNESCO Director General in a post by Mommyshravmusings
Source: UNESCO site

What is Mother tongue?:

As per the definition, mother tongue is the first language the baby hears for the first time in his life. It’s the language his parents/grandparents speak at home and it’s the same language which he is used to listening to while growing up. And that’s the reason why it’s been considered as the primary language or first language during the school years a few years back.

Now, most of the parents are admitting their children during the pre-primary/primary levels itself in English medium schools. And the schools are also imposing strict rules indicating that the children have to speak only English. Some schools are also resorting to tougher punishment measures on these younger children for speaking in their mother tongue. We would have read so many stories about these kinds of incidents in newspapers.

Child Psychologists and Educationists say that children below 6 years are capable of learning approximately four to five languages very seamlessly, without much effort from their end. If that’s the case, our children shouldn’t have any issues with language. But in the current generation, most of the kids are not experts even in any one language, leave alone multiple languages. So is there a problem somewhere? If yes, have we really taken the time to address it as the parents, so that the kids can be proficient in multiple languages?

If one’s Mother tongue is forgotten, then one’s value will also be forgotten”

Pramukh Swami Maharaj

If one digs a little deeper into the reasons why the people are using a mix of languages and are not fluent even in one of them, we have to admit that these kids don’t have a solid foundation in a single language. Any language expert would mention that having a strong foundation in one language helps them learn other languages easily.

But most of the parents are rushing their kids to practice talking in English right from the toddler days. Actually, this is the time when the child is trying to form the correlation between words and their sounds. They will be able to pick up words that we talk about at home very easily and they would learn the grammar rules without no one teaching them, just by hearing the family members talk. So at this stage, if parents confuse them with another language, by talking to the kid purposefully in that language, it will confuse them.

Tips to make the mother tongue work for your child.

  • In the early days, expose the child only to the language/(s) you speak at home and make it look seamless, without any stress on words or vocabulary.
  • Once when the child reaches a level of making sentences, introduce the child to the words from other languages based on the need. At this stage, show him the connections between your mother tongue and the new language you are introducing.
  • At this stage, we need to make use of the stories or rhymes to teach the similarities and connections, which are the building blocks. The same story or the words can be repeated in multiple languages so that they can understand them easily and are able to memorize them.
  • These connections are the building blocks in language learning for the children. Once they are able to get a grasp on these building blocks their speaking proficiency across the different languages would increase drastically.
  • Then is the time, to show the similarities across the alphabets between these languages and also explain the similarities in the grammatical rules across languages. This is the time to expose them to the books across different languages too. This is the second set of building blocks in language learning for the children. This would improve their writing levels in language learning.
How to make Mother Tongue work for your Child's success: A blog post by Mommyshravmusings

Now, that we understand how learning the mother tongue really helps in building the foundation for other languages in children, let us see how else this would help.

  1. Learning our mother tongue would make our children connected to our roots. It will help them stay grounded and give them a chance to stay connected with our native place and people.
  2. It will help in creating a different identity for their own. They don’t have to search for the lost identity or roots at a later date in the future.
  3. It will also install pride in their own heritage and culture, as it broadens their horizons. They would be in a position to make better choices at any given point in time.

This is the method I followed with my child and now he is proficient in three languages (Telugu, Tamil, and English). We are introducing him to Hindi also in a similar way. He is still making the connections across the words among all these four languages using Hindi as the base language. Based on my past experience, I am so sure that he would pick up Hindi also within a couple of months.

All pictures are sourced from the UNESCO website.

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla, and generously SPONSORED BY Bugshield Clothing – Don’t be Bugged!

44 Comments

  1. I completely agree and maintaining our mother tongue is very close to my heart. I have been in the USA for 15 years and both my kids are born here. But I a proud to say that they comfortably talk in Marathi which is my mother tongue Hindi and English. Parents have to go one extra mile if they want to maintain they rmother tongue.

    1. Wow, Alpana. Am really proud of you. Its almost the same case with me, I am from Andhra but settled in Tamilnadu. So now my kid is able to converse freely in both Telugu, Tamil and English. He is getting comfortable in Hindi only now, as most of his cousins are settled in Northern India

  2. My grandsons have a Mexican mother and they speak English and Spanish. Doesn’t father tongue count? I am very confused about this. I wish they spoke a little bit of Punjabi but they do not live with me for me to teach them.

    1. Yeah, can understand your dilemma Harjeet. When you meet him next, teach them Punjabi or atleast Hindi. That’s when they would be able to relish the roots from father’s side. My uncle married a Tamilian and settled in US. He himself doesn’t know Telugu, as he grew up in Jamshedpur. But my granny taught his kids few simple Telugu poems and introduced them to Andhra cuisine as she felt that those kids should identify with the roots from both the parents.

  3. I love how you have put this important point across so well, Shrav. I only realized how much I missed talking in my mother tongue (Rajasthani) after I grew up.

  4. Mother tongue holds a very special place in my life atleast. I write and teach my kids in English but I still think in my mother tongue. Kids should be told the importance of their. mother tounge

  5. English is just a language and i dont understand the craze that people have for it. Yes it is the language of business for us and we need to communicate well to presentable. However, it doesnt make mother tongue or regional languages any lesser. Iam a Tamilian but brought up in Bangalore. So I can only speak Tamil but can also read & write Kannada & Hindi due to schooling. Infact, Kannada comes to me more naturally when conversing with old friends and family more than Tamil does. Strangely, both my husband and me converse in Kannada at home that in English or Tamil (he is part Telugu & part Hindi but did his schooling in Chennai).

    1. That’s really great to hear Vasumathi. Yes, in India, we need to understand and speak the local language along with our mother tongue too. Same happens in my house too. We are making our child learn both Tamil and Telugu along with Hindi.

  6. I am a Marwari, born and bought up in the different corners of India, then I was married to a Mallu so I have adapted many languages and besides the mother tongue, I encourage my daughter to learn other languages too, it helps to give a taste of different cultures. I could never understand the obsession with English language, although it is important but pehle Hindi ya mother tongue to sikhado yaar… Thank you for talking on this topic.

    1. Thank you Priyanka. Yes, learning different languages will introduce us to those cultures and also the literature in those languages. For example reading Geethanjali by Tagore in English gives me a feeling that I am missing its real beauty of the verses there. Some day in future, I am planning to learn proper Bengali to relish the Bengali literary works.

  7. This is so true, Suhasini. Languages are dying because people feel embarrassed to speak in their native language. My mother tongue is Punjabi but our dialect is pothwari. Very few people speak it anymore.

  8. The mother tongue should be given as much importance as English. Parents avoid teaching them to kids because they fear the child will be confused. A very important post.

  9. When Aarav was born, my dad always insisted to talk in sindhi. He said that a child will learn Hindi and English anyways when he steps in outside world. But only we can teach him our mother tongue.

  10. I can’t express my happiness when I see that Mother tongue is getting promoted somewhere. For me having command on our mother tongue should be a matter of pride for everyone. At the same time I want to include the importance of Hindi language here, being a hindustani Hindi language should get recognition in every part of India.This is very unfortunate that English is taking over the sophistication of local language.

  11. Mother tongue is losing its importance across the country especially in the metro cities. Being in delhi, my 3yr olds teacher once told me that he doesn’t converse in english.he just understands it. She suggested me to speak with him in English only so that he gets a command over the language. But i just said that then he won’t b able to learn hindi ever. U take care of englsih at school and rest he will pick up with age. We need to keep the kids rooted and make them proud of our culture.very well written post.

  12. I completely agree here. Teaching our mother tongue to our kids is so important. This is one way to connect them with our roots. Me and my husband both are also trying our best to teach our daughters our language.

  13. Very well written article. It’s so important to teach mother tongue to our kids.This is one way to keep them connected to our roots. Me and my husband are trying our best to teach our daughters our mother tongue.

  14. What an insightful post! I am a thorough believer that one should always learn and talk in mother tongue. Over the years, living in a metropolitan cities, one has forgot the essence of mother tongue. I remember when Ayaansh was around 6 months old, I was told by a playgroup teacher that I should talk only in English with him and teach him foreign languages. she also told me that mother tongue can be learnt later in life, which is completely untrue. Not only her statements irked me, but I had given her some tat reply too.

  15. Such a beautiful post. My son speaks 3 languages now, I want to introduce Marathi to him as staying in Mumbai it is mandatory to learn marathi. Wil try and introduce him to a new language soon.

    My grandparents, my parents and today even I am strict about talking only in Malayalam at home. Even though we may not be able to visit Kerela that often, yet I want my children to be connected to their roots.

  16. Mother tongue is really important in kids growth . I am glad you brought this up .I love to talk in mother tongue with my kid. Kids should be told the importance of their. mother tounge.

  17. Mother tongue should be taught to children wherever you reside. We should spread awareness among kids, elders, friends, and everyone that we should respect our mother tongue, and it should be placed always on top of all languages. Only this way we can give importance and honour to it.

  18. I have just begun using flash cards in mother tongue for my child this post is so insightful. I learnt a lot today

  19. Such a relevant topic, I absolutely agree, we should all work hard to ensure that our children know our mother tongue as fluently as any other language. In fact, in North India, we tend to focus more on English and hindi is forgotten.

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mommyshravmusings

Welcome to my Parenting blog, which captures my parenting journey with Shrav. Also, I list down the books I read and review here.

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