For a smarter kid, teach her to speak her mother tongue

Why it is important to teach mother tongue to kids - ZenParent

Born in the land of diverse culture and many languages, most Indian kids invariably speak more than three languages. That’s mainly because English and Hindi are taught in school and, depending on the state you live in, you are most likely to have that regional language introduced in school. Therefore, if you aren’t from the place you live in and have a different mother tongue, your child receives the benefit of being introduced to four languages. Since my parents are from the same community and speak the same language, it was easier for me to pick up my mother tongue, Konkani. That makes me fluent in four languages, which is a plus. (I’ll tell you why)

Today, however, many of us live in inter-community homes, and sometimes the child may or may not be able to pick up a language that is its mother tongue. That happens because the mother and father converse in English, a common language for both. I see this as both a boon and curse depending on whether a parent has been able to introduce their native language to the child or not.

Like it or not, to a large extent children usually pick the language that the mother knows (duh! That’s why it’s called ‘mother tongue’) because of the amount of time a mother spends with her child (again, depending on if a mother is a SAHM) and subconsciously the mother speaks to the child in that language. In other cases, the child will learn the language of who he/she spends most of their time with (grandparents, relatives, nannies etc.). However, there is also a fat chance that a child is not privy to any of the above and gets stuck with learning only English and other languages that are taught in school.

Here’s why you must make an effort to teach your child your mother tongue:

Mutual intelligibility: When children know more than two languages it helps them to learn other languages quicker, thus becoming multilingual too. For instance, since Konkani is my mother tongue, I understand Marathi although I cannot converse fluently. This is because both Konkani and Marathi have similar roots. So is the case with other Indian regional languages. For example, if you know Assamese then it’s easier for you to understand Bengali and vice versa. The same is with Punjabi and Hindi also Urdu and Hindi. This is also due to the proximity of the states, like Kodava and Malayalam because Coorg and Kerala share the border.

importance of mother tongue in india - ZenParent

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Cultural awareness and broad perspective: Every language is closely associated with the culture of that state and community. So, children who learn their mother tongue will also learn a lot about the culture of their community and the state they belong to. It would widen their perspective making them realise the diversity that exists and help them get closer to their roots.

Cognitive and social skills: This is proven; when children are exposed to many languages they build better cognition and social skills. Knowing a language different from English will help them socialise easily. If you live in Bangalore, it helps when you know Kannada, Tamil or Malayalam because you can communicate smoothly with auto drivers, vegetable vendors at the market and the corner shop guy who delivers groceries at the earliest!

important to teach kids in mother tongue

Bonding with extended family and relatives: We all have that one elderly person in the family whose first language is not English. Therefore, when a child is able to speak the known language it becomes easier for him/her to bond with these family members and the entire family at large. Family gatherings are fun when everyone speaks the same language.

I didn’t think it was a big deal to know four languages until a German colleague once pointed out that he knew only one (German) fluently because he was still learning English! So, well, if you haven’t already taught your children the language you grew up speaking, it’s probably a good time to do so now.

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