Language is the essence and identity of culture, and is a major tool for communication. It is a major tool for exchanging ideas, emotions and feelings. To know your language is the key way to keep and preserve your culture.
The first words a baby hears from its mother is in the language of the mother. When the scenario changes and children shift to using English and conveniently forget the mother tongue, one does not realise that it is tragic. It is very essential for children to know their roots in terms of region and language.
Getting children to learn different languages from a very young age is good, and it is amazing how they switch from one language to another while conversing. But, losing a mother tongue is like losing one’s existence.
One can survive without the riches of the world but can one survive without mother tongue. In Kashmir, however, we are willing partner in crime of burying our mother tongue Kashmiri. Analysts believe that regional languages help to increase human values and feelings and that learning the mother tongue will help future generations make connections with their social and cultural fabric. Early schooling in a child’s mother tongue, can improve learning, increase student participation, and reduce worldwide burdens. However, this will require new books, new teacher training, and more funding, moreover, given the plurality of languages and dialects here, it can be used as a medium of instruction.
The importance of mother tongue in the overall development of personality is a given. Academics and language experts have a unanimous opinion on this. Having said so, there are other things that need to be taken care of. We live in a globalised world where human interactions and transactions are not confined to one’s own locality, and go beyond the people and the culture one is born in. It is because of the changes in the world that some languages have become more effective means of connecting to the world.
It is good that Kashmiri is now essentially taught at the elementary and middle level in all government as well as private schools across the valley. We have to remove the existing linguistic barriers to realise the goal of inclusive governance. Wherever there is a government-public interface, it should be in the language people understand. Teaching our children multiple languages helps widen the horizon of their understanding of both literature and science. People might know that, In 1999, UNESCO adopted a resolution on multilingual education and suggested the use of at least three languages in education; The mother language(s), a regional or national language, and an international language.
In this context, a number of suggestions for supporting education in home languages and mother tongues, tribal as well as sign languages is need of the hour.
A language is more than just a means of communication. It is a repository of a community’s collective history and heritage. It also provides an identity and a focus that binds a community together, which makes individual accomplishments easier. With Hindi having a prominent web presence, Hindi songs in Devanagari script can be easily found and enjoyed.
It is common knowledge that there are a good number of schools in Kashmir valley which punish students for talking in Kashmiri. This is unheard of elsewhere in the world. In Germany and France, for example, children are motivated to learn every lesson in French and German. Learning Science and Mathematics through one’s mother tongue is comparatively easier as compared to learning these subjects through a foreign language.
A majority of the greatest scientists in the world have learnt science in mother tongue. Or for that matter the greatest literature in the world has almost all been written in the mother tongue.