Neglect of the Mother Tongue

A few months back, I was posed a query by my son who was then studying in class III in a well known school in NCR. He showed me a notice from his school which said that from Class IV students will have to take a third language paper. There were five languages to choose from – French, Russian, Sanskrit, and Japanese & German. The student had to choose one among the given choices of languages.

As a Bengali living in the National Capital Region, the first two languages for my son obviously is English & Hindi. Neither is his mother tongue. And now he will have to grapple with a third (foreign) language in his own country. Across the world, educationist opines that a child learns the best in his/her mother tongue. But strangely I find that we’re digging the graves for our own languages.

When I discussed this issue with my brother-in-law, he narrated me an inspiring incident. He told me recently he met a Punjabi gentleman in a New Delhi shop reading a book in Bengali. On further probing, the Punjabi gentleman, who was the owner of the shop, revealed that during his youth he had read Devdas in Hindi. He was so impressed by the novels of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay that he wanted to learn Bengali and read the novel in the original language.  After his retirement, he took Bengali lessons for six months, and can read Bengali novels on his own now. In fact, quite a lot of his spare time is spent devouring Bengali classics.

Frankly, I have nothing against the foreign languages, one of which my son would eventually have to take up (Sanskrit didn’t appeal because it is difficult to get coaching), but I don’t see any logic in burdening a Class IV student with an alien language. I think it would have been easier for such young minds to learn Indian languages like Punjabi or Gujrati, Malayalam or Assamese, in case mother language can’t be taught owing to adequate number of students opting for, or the unavailability of language teachers. As for the famed languages like French, Russian or Japanese, such languages can be taught at graduate level professional courses such as Management, Engineering or Medicine in keeping with the requirements arising out of a need to integrate working environments globally…   


More by :  Subhajit Ghosh

Top | Society

Views: 3711      Comments: 10

Comment Best of luck in your endeavour as well...

Subhajit Ghosh
10-Aug-2013 00:33 AM

Comment Thanks Subhaji, am in NCR right now, and have been discussing these issues with many. I am not sure how many will be interested, but I try to plant the seeds of these issues in other people's minds.

i wish you good luck in this venture....:)

07-Aug-2013 00:57 AM

Comment Thanks. Maybe during Parent-Teachers meet next, the issue may be discussed with the School authorities with support of other parents...

Subhajit Ghosh
23-Jul-2013 10:57 AM

Comment YOu are lucky to have learnt your language when you were young.....

I know we all get busy, but may be, you can join with other parents to do something about this issue? Definitely worth a try!

Good luck and please keep writing such thought provoking, well needed articles.

22-Jul-2013 16:54 PM

Comment Agree with you that a lot need to improve in our education system. And rapid commercialization of education is leading to declining standards in big ways. As you have said, it is up to all those who care now rest the responsibility of transferring some of the virtues of the culture they have inherited into their children.

I grew up in the North-East and didn’t have a chance to learn my mother tongue in School. However, my parents insisted I learn to read & write Bengali and would send me for tuition during winter breaks. Thanks to that, I can read Bengali fairly well, and do read Bengali literary works now and then…

Thanks for the link to the article. Translation (and even films) may help to popularize vernacular literature (I think the Bengali detective Byomkesh Bakshi created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay became popular across India after a successful TV serial was made back in the eighties), but yes, unless one reads literature in the original language, one would always miss out on the real charm of the author’s creation.

Lack of job openings and a good career in Indian languages is increasingly making us dependent on English, and that is slowly and gradually, paving the demise of an erstwhile, vibrant literary output in the vernacular languages.

Subhajit Ghosh
21-Jul-2013 13:05 PM

Comment BBC had commented on this story!!

20-Jul-2013 06:48 AM

Comment In addition, there was a story on BBC today, in similar vein. If I find the link I will post it up.

Its a request to all those who work on ensuring that Indian children know Indian languages just as well. Learning english does have to to be at the expense of knowing our own mother tongues.

And knowing our own languages should not just come from the film industry (most of who are newly rich folks not really interested or versed in culture)--it should come from its usage, from reading literature in our own language, and more importantly by writing, creating new thoughts in our own languages!

20-Jul-2013 06:27 AM

Comment Thanks, this is short and quick, but let me state something. Teachers are not allowed to be creative (I remember our 4th grade english teacher would take us out for walks as a part of the class, to learn about nature, and&pay attention to the world around us. It was one of the special 'learning moments' for me. Indian schools still focus on 'cramming'. There are several ways of doing this.
I am saying this because I know a few young people in Delhi, who are school teachers. The horror stories I have heard from them make you realize that those who are running schools do not really know much about education. They may have degrees, but not the grace to understand a young child's mind (may be they can read a bit of Tagore and Krishnamurthy for that).

Education and business have been intertwined. What is the point of 'admission fee' being as high as a 70,000 IRS....

Providing foreign languages are just a 'gimmick'. If we think schools and the young are the back bone of India, we need to know our own languages. See if you can do something about it. Although sadly, I think there might be many parents who oppose learning Indian languages. Because there is no 'scope' or a purpose?

What is the purpose of learning music? Is it useless if we do not turn that into money and profit?


20-Jul-2013 06:23 AM

Comment You have said it so nicely. It is obvious we do not take pride in our heritages and culture. I agree that Bollywood of yesteryears, even though at times it was so much clichéd, was much more Indian.

The practicalities are that in our country, it is very difficult for a teacher and a student, in a normal class with 60 students, to clear every concepts and doubt, given the fact that the teacher generally has to complete a reasonably vast syllabus. So, in spite of teacher’s best intentions (let us assume it to be so), to do well in the subject’s tuition/coaching is often required by a student & this has become a norm in the country.

Picking up an Indian language would have been much easier for such young kids, and they could have learnt it much better and made use of it (the electronic media now brings hundreds of regional channels in our homes). This would also have fostered greater unity among our regional languages and culture ? and contributed to what we have all along boasted off as ‘India exhibits Unity in Diversity.’

The issue needs greater review and steps ought to be taken to save our Indian languages. Else our progeny would exhibit symptoms of being rootless in the days to come…

Thanks again for your comment…

Subhajit Ghosh
19-Jul-2013 02:00 AM

Comment Thanks so much for this article. I have been meaning to write something on this for a while. I personally have not lived in India for a very long time. But, every visit to India, I have realized two things. 1. that we have this love affair with all things foreign, and do not take pride in being Indian. (if bollywood was ever considered Indian, its lost that as well.) 2. Schools perpetuate this by keeping hindi only as a third language. (Another trend I have noticed --which requires another post is reduction/elimination of Dusshera holidays.

I did take Sanskrit as my third language and never regretted it. (BTW. why should we require coaching in anything else, aren't parents paying school fees? why is coaching outside of school a norm now? no one even questions it? what are schools for?

Since then I have studied Spanish and now am learning Swedish. I know this, that years of learning these languages will amount to very little. Unless they are used on a regular basis. However, given a chance I would learn another Indian language, which I am sure, I will pick up much easier and use it more often (at least if were living in India).

Language is a direct link to culture and literature. One becomes a true american when they drop all the connections to the culture they came with, and one of the first ones to go is language. Interestingly, this is more common among Asians.

Here in Sweden there is a tradition of 'hem sprak' home language or mother tongue. So, believe it or not, Indian children get to learn hindi at school!!

This matter needs an in-depth look at our connection with our own heritage, ....why are we not proud of learning our own languages. If nothing else knowing our own languages will help us better understand our own country.

By the way, if I could I would learn Bengali as well. I have read much Tagore in English!!

Thanks again--and I believe that though this article is a start, that parents should get together and bring this issue up.

18-Jul-2013 17:23 PM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.