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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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