Don’t cut off your mother tongue.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “fourteen”?
A number, two weeks or the amount of money in your bank account?
If you are concerned about languages, however, the number fourteen has a special significance.
Researchers tell us that, on average, a language dies out every fourteen days.
There are as many as 6,000 languages worldwide. The United Nations says that if protective measures are not taken, 3,000 of them will disappear in next century.
Now, let me tell you my story about a language disappearing. Usually, my family gets together at the lunar new year. I guess most of you are the same.
My parents, siblings, and nephews, three generations gathered together under one roof. We eat, drink and have fun.
But this year I noticed something strange. My parents used Mandarin to talk with their grandson, even though they are not totally comfortable in Mandarin, but talked to me, as usual, in perfect Taiwanese, their mother tongue.
My native language is Taiwanese. When I was a kid, I hardly ever heard to my parents speaking Mandarin, not to mention my grandparents. I spoke Taiwanese in my daily life and learned Mandarin at school. I could switch between the two with no effort.
I have told to my brother and some friends if your children can’t speak your mother tongue, that is a problem, and you are responsible for it.
How do you expect them to learn if you never speak it together? We all know the environment is the most important factor in acquiring a language.
Now, you might say, they don’t understand it so what is the point of speaking it with them? This is to confuse cause and effect. The reason they don’t know it is precisely because you never gave them a chance to learn it.
Some people may argue that the most common language in the world is English or Mandarin right now. Why don’t we study that language first instead of our Taiwanese mother tongue? No parents want their children to fall behind the competition.
According to language learning theory, the mother tongue is not a burden to learning further but a resource.
Linguists point out that a strong base in your first language is hugely beneficial to learning a second. Languages are interdependent, not independent of each other.
The mother tongue can have a major supporting effect. For example, various studies have found that mother a reading and writing ability in one’s mother tongue can promote second language development.
Speaking your native language at home not only preserves this language but also helps you learn a second language.
Speaking your mother tongue can provide the most valuable language learning resource for children.
We have to take responsibility to save our mother tongue. Whether you speak Taiwanese, Hakka or an Aboriginal language, don’t be ashamed to speak it.
One language is one culture. No one language is superior to any other. All languages are equal. Everyone has to respect linguistic and cultural differences
Don’t worry about your mother tongue not being fluent to teach your children. Attitudes and motivations are important in language learning.
Even if your mother tongue is a little rusty, you can still cultivate the correct attitudes in your children, promoting a motivation to learn their native language.
Also, we have Toastmasters clubs, Community Colleges, Internet and CDs that make it easy to let you access information about your native language. So please don’t cut off your mother tongue, save it!
Finally, I want to quote from “ When Languages Die.”