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Mother tongues and their bleak future in India

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By Arka Mondal

“Polak and I had often very heated discussion about the desirability or otherwise of giving the children an English education. It has always been my conviction that Indian parents who train their children to think and talk in English from their infancy betray their children and their country. They deprive them of the spiritual and social heritage of the nation, and render them to that extent unfit for the service of the country. Having these convictions, I made a point of always talking to my children in Gujarati. Polak never liked it. He thought I was spoiling their future. He contended, with all the vigor and love at his command, that, if children were to learn a universal language like English from infancy, they would easily gain considerable advantage over others in the race of life. He failed to convince me.”  –  Mahatma Gandhi

Every mother tongue has a unique identity that speaks volumes on a distinctive heritage, culture, melody and color. Besides being the most precious treasure in our lives, the mother tongue has a very powerful impact in the formation of an individual.

Since the sound that a baby hears while being inside the womb is the mother tongue, it has an obvious role in shaping the personality of an individual. Therefore the need to preserve one’s own mother tongue is underscored in the fact that the psychological and emotional development of a child depends on what is conveyed to him right from the beginning. It matters tremendously that language expressions and vocabulary are chosen with care when we speak to children.

An individual’s initial understanding of the world around him, his first learning of things, the perception of concepts and skills begin with the mother tongue, the language that is first taught to him/her. Similarly, the child expresses his first feelings, his happiness, fears, and his first words using his mother tongue.

As the most integral stage of an individual’s life is spent in the imprints of the mother tongue, it plays a pivotal role in shaping our thought process, emotions and our concept of the spiritual world. Such is the impact of the mother tongue that there is no denying the fact that an Indian feels comfortable in saying “Ram and Shyam” rather than “Tom, Dick and Harry” even after graduating from an English medium institution.

It has been witnessed that children who come to school with a strong foundation in their mother tongue pick up sustainable literacy skills in foreign languages. This can be attributed to the fact that the ability to converse in a foreign language is developed through the mother tongue.

The mother tongue familiarizes a child with the nuances of a language, how to learn it and use it. This facilitates him or her to learn other languages as well. A strong foundation in their first language contributes to learning another language and helps to develop stronger literacy skills in the language that is taught in the school.

It is evident that when children continue to develop their abilities in two or more languages throughout their primary school years, they gain a deeper understanding of language and gradually acquire knowledge about how it can be manipulated and applied in different ways.

Unfortunately, in a developing nation like India, children face tremendous dilemma when their mother tongue is replaced by a foreign language at the nursery level. Neither do they learn their mother tongue proficiently, nor do they become an expert in the foreign language. The colonial hangover and the notion that English language makes a man smarter and fetches him a job have an adverse effect on the mother tongue.

With English medium schools cropping up like mushrooms after an overnight rain, mother tongues in India are staring at a silent death.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his native language, that goes to his heart” Nelson Mandela.

 

 

 

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“Mizraab” – A Tabloid to vent the Creative Expressions of Young minds of Kashmir

"Mizraab" is not only about art, literature and culture, it includes satire and showcases conflict as well.

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Image Source: Kashmir Observer
  • The first issue of the 16-page fortnightly “Mizraab”, funded by local newspaper “Kashmir Observer”, is a collection of writings, illustrations and poetry done by students
  • “Mizraab” is not only about art, literature and culture, it includes satire and showcases conflict as well
  • She said she got 2,500 copies printed for the first edition. All of them were distributed to students free of cost

In search of space for political dissent in the trouble-torn Kashmir Valley, 23-year-old Saba Nazki and a bunch of youths have started a tabloid — “Mizraab” — exclusively for students to give vent to their creative expressions in the form of stories and illustrations.

When Nazki flew back in 2014 after completing her graduation from Delhi University in English honors, she said there was “no space” in the Valley for intellectual creativity as existed in the national capital where art, theatre and writing used to be her daily fare.

The first issue of the 16-page fortnightly “Mizraab”, funded by local newspaper “Kashmir Observer”, is a collection of students’ writings, illustrations and poetry.

“Kashmir not only has beautiful landscapes but is also rich in terms of art and literature. And it is so unfortunate that we do not have any space for expression. Kashmir is poetic. Students here need polishing and a platform for expression. Thus, Mizraab,” Nazki, who never intended to be a journalist, told IANS.

Titled appropriately, “Mizraab”, a Persian-origin Urdu name for fiddle-stick or the plectrum with which musical instruments like the sitar or rabaab are played, is a platform to stir the hidden creative minds of the valley.

“Mizraab for me is to instigate art and channelize intellectual space. In Kashmir, even student politics is mostly banned. We need to create our own space,” said Nazki, the founding editor.

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Pursuing her masters in English literature from Kashmir University, Nazki has involved fellow students, invoking in them the sense of writing.

The first edition published earlier this month is a mix of Kashmir’s art, culture, history and linguistic treasure. For example a column, “With Love, To Aga Shahid Ali”, remembers the life and works of the renowned Kashmiri-American poet.

It also has illustrations by students of music and fine arts. There is a column called “Til-waer”, which literally means an oil-dispenser, but is a phrase in Kashmir used for a woman who wanders from door-to-door.

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Image Source: Kashmir Observer

“Tilwaer” will be a collection of words and brain-picking idioms and phrases no longer used in spoken Kashmiri. The idea is to recollect “with a tinge of sarcasm, humour and wit” the lost linguistic treasure of Kashmir.

“Dancing in Wilderness — of longings, divinity and catharisis” creates a link between Kashmir’s ancient women poets like Lalla Ded and Habba Khatoon and their present-day counterparts like Naseem Shafai — the first Kashmiri woman to win the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2011.

However, Nazki said the tabloid is not only about art, literature and culture.

“Art and culture is only the prism. I intend to showcase Kashmir’s life in various ways,” she said, adding that the tabloid uses art as a metaphor. “It includes satire and showcases conflict as well.”

She said she got 2,500 copies printed for the first edition. All of them were distributed to students free of cost. But from the next edition, each copy will be priced at Rs 5.(Source:IANS)

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English- language of the world (Analysis)

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English was born in the 7th century in England – a small island nation a quarter of the size of France. Since the 17th century, it has become the mother tongue of all locally-born Brits, Americans and Canadians (except for Native Americans on reservations), most Australian and New Zealanders, and several Caribbeans, in the form of…

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Commemorating the International Mother Language Day- February 21

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By Varnika Mahajan

“Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.” –UN

Promoting linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism is the core motive which calls for celebrating the International Mother Language Day.

The theme of the 2016 International Mother Language Day is “Quality education, language(s) of instruction, and learning outcomes.”

‘Mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies. We must recognise and nurture this power, in order to leave no one behind, to craft a more just and sustainable future for all.’- This is UNESCO’s message on this day.

HISTORY

Proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999, the International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000.

The date represents the day in 1952 when students in the then Pakistan demanded recognition of their language ‘Bangla’, as one of the two national languages. The students were gunned down by the police in Dhaka, the capital of today’s Bangladesh.

While the day is celebrated all over the world, Bangladesh declared it a public holiday commemorating this unfortunate incident where it is also known as Shohid Dibôsh or Shaheed Day.

ACTIVITIES ON THIS DAY

The International Mother Language Day witnesses robust efforts by UNESCO and other UN agencies in promoting cultural and linguistic diversity over the world. Apart from providing awareness among people about their language and culture in other countries, these agencies encourage peoples’ morale and appreciate those who acknowledge their mother language.

People visit the Shaheed Minar in Bangladesh on this day, in order to pay homage to the students martyred on February 21. People with their outstanding performance towards language and cultural diversity are lauded. Flowers are sprinkled and it is time for the cultural celebration of their Bengali national language.

The Linguapax Institute, in Barcelona, Spain presents the Linguapax Prize on International Mother Language Day each year for those who have made outstanding work in linguistic diversity or multilingual education.

SYMBOLS

The Shaheed Minar in Dhaka
The Shaheed Minar in Dhaka (Image source: espncricinfo.com)

The Shaheed Minar in Dhaka pays respect to the four students who were shot down while demanding a national identity of their mother language.

An International Mother Language Day monument was constructed at Ashfield Park in Sydney, Australia. Images of Shaheed Minar and the globe on the face of the stone can be seen with the words “we will remember the martyr of 21st February” engraved in both Bengali and English languages.

IN CONCLUSION

We, at NewsGram, appreciate linguistic diversity and promote multilingual education. Apart from operating an online portal in the English language, a full-fledged Hindi language portal ‘newsgram.in’ is operated simultaneously, in order to create news pertaining to lingual awareness about our national language. (Image source: youtube.com)