It’s true isn’t it? When you’re in another country and you suddenly hear someone speaking in your native language, your heart skips a beat! Such is the power of language; it is a part of our identity, a little piece of where we’re from even if we don’t live there anymore. It adds an extra aspect to our personality and gives us something to pass on to our children.
However, with globalization, immigration and a rise in mixed marriages (Editor’s Note : Since I am a Keralite and my husband is punjabi, we are also in this category) the appeal of one’s mother tongue isn’t what it once was. There are many people in our generation who can’t speak in their mother tongue, which obviously leaves behind little hope for the next generation. Which is a pity considering part of India’s rich cultural diversity is because of its 700+ languages!
With a view to celebrate cultural diversity and promote awareness of multilingualism, the UNESCO has announced the 21st of February to be celebrated as International Mother Language Day. If you are yet to introduce your child to your native language, this is the perfect opportunity! Here are a few ways in which you can teach your child your mother tongue.
How to Teach Mother Tongue To Your Child
1. As with everything, an early start reaps better results. If you start speaking to your baby in your mother tongue or sing songs in the language, there is a much better chance of him picking it up than introducing it at a later stage.
2. More often than not, grandparents speak your mother tongue better than you do, so let kids enjoy some traditional stories from Grandma!! This is a lovely way to learn a new language for the kids as well as have a great time in the process!
3. The power of books cannot be underestimated, least of all when it comes to learning a new language!! Begin with simple picture books with images of common objects in your vernacular, which is the easiest way for kids to begin. Or write your own translations under the English text of your child’s favorite book.
4. Around the house, when shooting out instructions to pick up the toys or close the door, do it in your mother tongue. Your child will initially find it odd, but she’ll soon get used to it and start using them herself.
5. If you’ve grown up in your home state, tell your kids stories about the time you were young, interspersing the conversation with dialogs in your native language. It’ll make the scenes feel more real to your kids and they’ll feel more connected to you.
6. See if you can find a TV channel in your mother tongue so the kids can watch for little while. If you don’t like the content of the channel, see if you can lay your hands on some age appropriate movie DVDs. A funny movie where there is enough action to supplement the dialogue works better with kids.
7. Kids love music; so play some catchy tunes in your vernacular and let them swing to the beat! With time, you can introduce them to a few classics as well, so they can get deeper into their culture.
8. When you have guests at your home who speak your native language, encourage your child to greet them in her mother tongue. Your guests are sure to reply the same way and they’ll think your child is adorable!
In spite of all your attempts, you might find that your child isn’t as interested as you hoped, but no one said it was easy! Kids need reminder after reminder, so you’ll just have to keep at it! Remember that it’ll be worth it in the end, especially since most experts agree that multilingualism has many benefits for kids in the long run.
Benefits of Being Multilingual
1. Multilingual kids have a better understanding of the concept of languages, and they find it easier to learn a foreign language later on.
2. They are able to communicate more comfortably with extended relatives, which increases their social circle and deepens family bonds.
3. Good proficiency in their mother tongue may even make it an optional subject of study and possible career path later.
4. Kids who know more than one language are found to exhibit better mental dexterity along with spatial and verbal abilities.
5. Children who know and understand multiple languages have a better view of the world and are found to have a more broad minded approach.
6. For children, getting deeper into their vernacular introduces other aspects of their culture like art, music, drama and literature.
7. Kids who learn more than one language are also found to have better listening, higher reading levels, improved memories and greater vocabularies.
While teaching your child your vernacular, it’s important to send across the message that while his mother tongue is a part of his identity, by no means is it superior or inferior to another language, Indian or otherwise. Language is a means of communication and is meant to bring us together, not tear us apart! When kids learn a new language with the right attitude, we can trust them to keep our culture alive, while moving ahead to a new, united world.