Mother Tongue

International Mother Language Day is celebrated on February 21. It is observed every year to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

According to the United Nations, languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and the planet.

Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether, the UN underlines.

When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost, the UN notes.

Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

In our context, the ‘mother languages’ are often ignored and sometimes actively repressed.

The first words a baby hears from its mother is in the language of the mother. As the scenario changes and children shift to using other languages and conveniently forget the mother tongue, one does not realise that it is not good. The biggest threat is posed by the current educational systems that actually refuse to use mother tongues as mediums of instruction or even to offer them as elective subjects.

Experts say first and foremost a child understands his mother tongue and hence when instructed in that language itself, his transition to school education is smooth and easy. If a student is made to learn in a foreign language, the child will not only have to learn to read and write in that language but also learn that language itself, this approach burdens students with learning two incredibly complex concepts at the same time. Even UNESCO has recommended that classes be taught in the community’s mother tongue during the early years of primary school.

Also some primary school teachers find it difficult to express themselves in Urdu or English and hence are not able to transfer as much knowledge as they would like to, thus creating a knowledge deficit.

Researches show that mother tongue is vital in framing the thinking and emotions of people. Efforts need to be made to protect the mother tongue. Government and people have a duty to play and shall be realized for overall benefits.

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