More dominant than mother tongue

Some weeks ago, during a weekend conversation with friends who came over (mainly to enjoy my wife’s cooking) to visit, we ended up talking about the significance of language. We were discussing how one’s mother tongue plays a key role in helping shape the person’s outlook. I pointed out that there is an underlying ridicule associated with the so-called vernacular languages. For some reason, we haven’t been able to give our colonial baggage a rest. This is best exemplified by parents who insist on conversing with their kids in English. And you can also notice how they’ll talk louder than usual with their wards in English when they are in public. As if they are asserting their superiority complex.

Here’s the thing: that mindset and the resulting lingual exercise reek of inferiority complex.

It’s only in a country like ours you’ll get to experience such extremes. Yes, the Europeans are fascinated by English but they don’t subvert their native tongues. They somehow strike a lovely balance. In India, it’s becoming an us-versus-them contest. My query is, how exactly are the parents helping their child nurture better by insulating him/her to only one lingual exposure, especially when it’s a proven fact that being multilingual helps us think better. It’s not like the child is NOT going to learn English in school. On the contrary, that’s going to be his/her primal language. What s/he is going to miss on is the mother tongue his/her mother is unwilling to speak in. After all, the child picks up languages during the initial 3–4 years. Once you fill that space up with a language that is certainly going to get more than its lion’s share, then you’re basically doing your ward a grave injustice, aren’t you? Or maybe i’m overthinking as usual. Who gives a fuck about languages anyway? Well, i do. Languages didn’t happen overnight and without them, we are as good as Harambe’s side of untold story.

Nowadays, you keep saying XYZ is the language you think in. English is the language i think in. To me, it’s the most beautiful language out there, mainly because i’m soaked in it. I can’t say the same for Tamil or Urdu (where my knowledge is basic) or Tulu or Hindi (where my knowledge is more than basic) mainly for intellectual reasons. I can’t efficiently propose an argument in Tulu/Hindi. My vocabulary — or rather the lack of it — doesn’t allow me. That said, i genuinely believe that English shouldn’t be perceived as a dominant element in our societal spheres. It’s winning anyway; it doesn’t need that extra push.

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