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Why Parents Should Speak To Their Children In Their Mother Tongue

11/12/2015 8:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Mother and daughter blowing dandelion seeds.

I grew up in Bahrain, away from my homeland. Fortunately, I had already had the opportunity to learn my mother tongue language very well since I did my schooling until fourth grade in India. Even when we moved abroad, my parents ensured that I continued to stay rooted to my culture and retained my love for our language. I wish I could do the same for my son too. After all, language is the key to our culture and our roots. When children learn their mother tongue, they also learn more about where they came from and what their culture stands for.

One of the major challenges we face as parents living away from home is giving our kids access to the rich cultural heritage of our country. Many of us emigrate from our homes out of necessity -- better job opportunities, better lifestyle, better education for the kids. While we are busy making a living abroad, we forget the fact that our kids are growing up in a foreign land. Yes, they are enriched by the exposure to different cultures, they become proficient in a foreign language and they are within reaching distance of so many more opportunities. However, they also miss out on so many precious moments of love and happiness. There are so many things they do not learn. While many of us parents try our level best to inculcate our traditions and heritage in our children, others do not think that doing so is necessary.

Learning multiple languages has been proven to boost brain power... if that language happens to be their mother tongue, so much the better.

I have seen some parents who do not talk to their kids in their mother tongue because they think it's useless. To them international languages give their children a competitive edge and that's all that matters. I have even heard a few teachers advise parents to stop using their mother tongue at home to help their kids improve their performance at school. In fact, this advice was even doled out to the parents of a toddler who was going to play school. There's no doubt that this child would have learned English over time in school. But what about the mother tongue?

Here are some reasons why many parents don't speak to their kids in their mother tongue:

  • They think it will not do them any good in academics or in their work life later.
  • Some parents have a sense of inferiority about their cultural roots and don't want their child to learn a language they themselves see as being somehow "less than".
  • Some of them think it can help them learn English at a very early age.
  • They simply do not see the point in teaching their mother tongue to their kids.

I beg to differ.

Your kids, especially when they are growing up abroad, will have every opportunity to pick up other foreign languages. They'll have that much sought-after competitive advantage and the necessary communication skills to thrive in their current environment. But there are also so many advantages to learning their mother tongue as well. They'll have a sense of rootedness and guess what, learning multiple languages, has been proven to boost brain power. And if one of those languages happens to be their mother tongue, so much the better.

A version of this blog was originally published here.

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