MOTHER TONGUE AND ROLE OF SOCIETY
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER TONGUE DAY:
Mother Language is our visible and invisible heritage and one of the main tools for development. All kinds of actions in the development of mother tongue encourage not only linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also raise full awareness of linguistic consciousness and cultural customs around the world and encourage empathy based on understanding, generosity and message.
MOTHER TONGUE AS A BLESSING
Mother tongue is blessed with amazing power of reassurance. Some time back while I was a doctor on duty, a concerned staff nurse accorded to a patient, called me to check the patient (who was undergoing blood transfusion) for any kind of transfusion reaction. I went to the patient and discovered NOT any kind of reaction but the patient was highly anxious, heart rate almost touching 140. I asked the patient whether he was alright. It was late night, the patient kept on insisting me with anxiety to discontinue the transfusion and let it continue next morning. I kept on motivating the patient in view of the protocol of the hospital/guidelines to blood transfusion. But he wouldn’t listen to me. At that moment, the attendant with the patient found out that I was Kashmiri. She put hearing aid in patient’s left ear and told me to speak now. I told the patient “Ba chus kashur doctor (I am a Kashmiri Doctor).” Listening me speaking in Kashmiri, the patient relaxed with heart rate normalising below 100 at once. The patient happened to be a Kashmiri Pandit and offered me unconditional blessings and love. This is the healing power of mother tongue.
On this year’s International Mother Tongue Day (21 February), I ask myself can we share the beauty and power of literature through our mother languages.
ROLE OF FAMILY
Addressing the mother tongue language in your family and your environment with your children routinely, and having positive discussions about the role of it – will surely create a huge impact on maintaining its zenith. No matter how you personally choose to learn any of the language, you can make a difference for your child by being positive about their opportunities to learn and use mother tongue particularly. Be firm in your own belief about the usefulness and benefit of your mother tongue, and pass this belief on to your children. As per a psychological study, children usually value the language their parents are offering them to learn, no matter what other people say, and they will be able to use such language to access their own heritage and culture. You need to appreciate them for their efforts in using mother tongue and acknowledge their keenness.
ROLE OF TEACHERS
Teachers in current times have an immense role to play in encouraging the learning and use of mother language. Personally as an online Educator, I usually feel emulated to discuss with my Educator Relationship Manager regarding the creation of course lessons in Kashmiri Language besides English and other languages of interest. As teachers we need to inculcate and explore the idea of enhancing learning processes among students to learn mother tongue more positively. We need to practice mother tongue exploration in our classrooms, by the language of greetings, taking the roll, and other classroom routines. If children are unable to answer questions or respond in the school language, let them do it in their own mother language and then use the resources available to you (other students, teaching assistants, technology) to translate the answer if necessary. Address this issue in class to let the children know that you value their language and support them in continuing to use and grow in that mother language.
ROLE OF ADMINISTRATORS AND POLICY MAKERS
Create in-school (and community) platforms in which mother language is celebrated rather than discouraged or shamed. Provide staff (teaching and support) with adequate professional calibre to understand the mother language development and how to support students who are learning mother language while also learning content in the classroom. If “every teacher is a language teacher” in your school, make sure you are giving the teachers the knowledge and tools they need to fulfill that role. Create a school language policy that is inclusive rather than exclusive, and that creates spaces in the school for the students to develop their mother language in particular. This can be metaphorical space, in the classrooms, or physical space, for home language/mother tongue teaching. And when staffing these programs, ensure that the pedagogy and methodology of these lessons is a good fit for the mission and vision of the school and the daily school experiences of the students – the quality of the programs and the alignment with the school curriculum sends a powerful message to students and families about the value of their mother languages.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Our Government can play a precious role in encouraging mother language by framing target- oriented language policy for enactment. Have knowledge about mother language development and the importance of home languages/mother tongue as a fundamental part of any support or information you provide for parents and parents-to-be. Ensure that all professionals who work with young families (paediatricians, nurses, child care workers, etc.) also have accurate information about these topics, so they can advise parents accurately; they are the front-line for parental support and they need to be able to convince parents to make the right decisions. Engage the community in discussions on mother language use and development – blog, tweet, spread the word in whatever way works in your community.
ROLE OF MEDIA
Media, particularly the print media, can have an immense role to play in enhancing Mother Tongue development. If we talk of our Kashmiri Language, there are many newspaper dailies including other weekly magazines that are published in Kashmiri Language. This is an encouraging sign. To enlighten it more, we need to introduce as maximum as possible dailies to the front to reach to climax of enhancing our mother language development.
ROLE OF CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS
Cultural organisations have a pivotal role to play in sensitizing the people towards exploration of their mother language. Though these organisations are working in this direction, they need to foster research related to socio-cultural, ethnic, political and economic dimensions of mother language development. They need to organise specific and goal-oriented functions/seminars at all levels to possibly explore the core principles in mother tongue development.
In conclusion, I would say that each parent, teacher, administrator, policy-maker, media person or any cultural organization has a role to play in changing the linguistic landscape to create together a level platform in which the language priorities for children should focus on mother language development besides other multi-lingual development. Our mother tongues are the languages we feel at home with – the languages we are comfortable to use. Whether it is one or a combination does not matter. What matters is feeling a sense of ownership, belonging and strength we develop in encouraging our mother language.
- The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org