This post is to celebrate International Authors’ Day. It is being hosted by Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay. You can visit her blog by clicking here.
Recently I asked one of my cousins if she had read Satyajit Ray’s ‘Feluda’ as a kid. She nodded and said yes, “His writing in English is so awesome!” I was exasperated! Feluda in English? That’s like having mango milkshake with no mango and only it’s flavour instead. The only language that Feluda should ever be read in is the one in Bengali. More so if you are a ‘Bong’ yourself. She reasoned with me that since she never stayed in Kolkata she didn’t know how to read and write in her own mother tongue. It left me tongue tied.
I didn’t continue with the topic any further, but I asked myself if that was excuse enough? Isn’t one missing out on an essential if he doesn’t know his own mother tongue? I, for one, feel very let down when I see that. And yes, before anyone can say anything, I have started doing the needful with my child because she must know it for sure. She doesn’t have to venture into the ‘History of Bengali Literature’ or know all the intricate nuances of Bengali grammar; but she must be able to read the Bengali newspaper and write an essay in her mother tongue.
Today we are all so caught up to fulfil our desire for a better life that we are escaping to lands that offer us that opportunity. But while doing so, why are we forgetting what our roots are? Parents play a very important role here. They need to tell the children the importance of knowing the ‘language of the heart‘. It’s only an early inculcation of this thought that will make the child grow up into an individual who will know his mother tongue.
The mother language is a precious treasure because, like each language, it represents the culture that one is a part of. It’s thus our duty to pass it down to the next generations. Yes, learning the language of the place that one resides in, is equally important, but the ethos of one’s being cannot be shrugged off.
The mother language, ideally should be the one that one hears right from the time that the baby is in the womb. And as he grows and learns to read and write it, his appreciation for it will grow too. Believe it or not, but what’s conveyed through the mother tongue has a far deeper impact on the child than any other language. As psychologists say. If a child can express himself in his mother tongue then a direct connection is established between heart, brain and tongue. It is one’s native language that adds emotion.
A study was carried out on fifteen Italian interpreters who were working for the European Union and translating in English and Italian. When these interpreters were shown Italian words, as compared to when they were shown English words, seeing the former recorded a higher peak in electrical activity in the left side of the brain. Alice Mado Proverbio, a professor of cognitive electrophysiology at the Milano-Bicocca University in Milan said that the “mother tongue is the language we use to think, dream and feel emotion.”
Studies have found that kids who go to school knowing their native language, have stronger literacy abilities. They explore the similarities and differences between different languages and pick up the newer ones faster. But if your child is unaware of the native language then he will express himself only fluently in the language of the place. Be ready for an emotional disconnect at home then! Unless, you are also one who likes to parade around dismissing your mother tongue as unimportant.
So, next time, before you ‘proudly’ say that you don’t know the language that you were born with, please stop. I know that since you reading this blog post you aren’t a child anymore, but your learning can still start. Go make that start. As for me, I will continue to silently smile and thank my parents every time I see the startled look on people’s faces when I tell them that I can not only speak but fluently read and write in Bengali too.
I could have written a post on my favourite book, my favourite author, why I read or why I write. But I chose not to. This day has to be made into a special one. So I had to speak from my heart. And none other than talking about what I feel about the language of my heart.
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