“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
What is a mother tongue?
The first language which a person learns from birth at home from parents and elders and becomes the basis for cultural identity is the mother tongue.
International Mother language Day is celebrated across the globe on 21st February. UNESCO first announced this International Mother language Day to encourage the awareness of cultural diversity and language all across the globe.
Theme for this year, 2020 International Mother Language Day is ‘Languages without borders’.
For 20 years UNESCO has been celebrating the International Mother language Day which promotes mother tongue-based multilingual teaching.
Mother tongue can also be called as the first language, as it is the first language which a person learns after birth.
Mother tongue consists of the set of written words and sounds which are used by a particular native or country for verbal communication and writing.
Children speaking in their mother tongue at home become more comfortable and can communicate whatever they want with their family members.
It is observed that children with a strong mother tongue foundation develop a good understanding and increase the sense of comfort and confidence in their academic accomplishments.
All the kids, irrespective of class, sex, and caste, have to move towards the school language or the second language from the home language/first language.
First language is the language which one dreams, thinks, and counts in. It is the language that the kids speak comfortably and fluently before going to the elementary school.
Importance of mother tongue/first language in a child’s life:
Importance of the mother tongue is that, when a child speaks in his own mother tongue, he develops good critical thinking, literacy skills, social, cultural identity and improves his academic accomplishments.
These skills when once gained in the learner’s mother tongue, do not have to be taught again while transferring to a second language.
Research showed that when children develop their skills in 2 to 3 languages, they develop a good understanding and increase the sense of comfort and confidence.
It is necessary to talk in the first language with the children as they can focus and enjoy school more which helps them to quickly learn the task as they feel comfortable in their environment.
Talking in the mother tongue thoroughly is necessary and a matter of pride and leads to greater self-respect among the students.
The first language can be taught by many teachers like, the parents, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. but only the classroom teacher teaches the second language.
As the native language or the first language is taught at home, the child has more time for learning it, whereas there is little time for learning the second language as it is usually taught in the school.
The Government of India, understood the importance of first language, therefore the National Education Policy (NEP) released in the year 2020 points out that first language as the medium of instruction should be taught upto Standard V.
The NEP states that, “Wherever possible, students till class V in schools should be taught in first language/regional language/local language”.
The idea is drawn from various studies which showed that children understand things best in their first language.
The Government also clarified that no language will be imposed. The idea behind the first language teaching is not to stop or hamper English medium teaching.
Education in home language is a child’s right. It has an important position in all the circumstances which involves human learning.
Importance of mother tongue in Education:
- Various surveys showed that children having a strong base of the mother tongue develops a positive attitude towards school and understands the curriculum easily.
- In a few of the developing countries around 221 million children are unable to understand the language they teach in primary school which the young children do not speak at home.
- Another study showed that when a child hears and speaks in his own mother tongue especially at home, his imagination power improves and he can easily correlate his thinking and reading skills.
- Studies showed that when a child receives formal instruction in their mother tongue in elementary school and then gradually changes to academic learning in the second language, they grasp the second language very fast.
- Another important study showed that children have the habit of translating when the second language is taught in the school, they have the habit of translating it to their mother tongue which improves their academic performance.
- When children develop skills in 2 languages, they become bilingual and bi-literate. Bilingual languages are important and encourage them to understand better, develop the confidence to read and write in more than one languages.
- The languages and dialects are one of the most effective ways to preserve our culture. First language is a way which helps us to stay connected to our culture, heritage and our roots.
- Kids enjoy more when you teach them in your native languages or the first language, without any delays and hiccups in learning.
- Mother tongue is important as it increases the interaction between the parent and the child as the parent can communicate well with the teachers and participate in the school homework.
- In some rare cases, kids are lucky to have 2 first languages. Two languages are spoken at home when the parents are from different native. This encourages them to have a clear understanding and develop confidence in school.
- It is seen that the kids in remote rural areas, who speak the first language at home and do not have contact with the second language or school language outside the classroom, often have serious problems in understanding the language taught at school.
- Mother tongue in education is important and helps the child to phrase a sentence and use the language of choice at that moment in time.
- A research showed that the bilingual kids achieve higher marks than monolinguals on oral and written intelligence tests.
- The three important foundations to shape the kids are the school, neighbours, and the parents.
- Babies are born by hearing the melody and sound of their home language. It is seen that the baby hears the sound of language from the mother’s womb and this melody is necessary as it helps in the development of the brain.
- More than one language shows higher synaptic activity in the child’s brain and the multi-language shows higher mental agility. This cognitive flexibility passes on to all the areas of brain functioning.
Success of using Mother tongue in teaching and learning:
- In Mathematics: A study showed that children learn well and shows great improvement in mathematical concepts when they are taught using their first language.
Mathematical concepts include problems on surface and volume, algebra, trigonometry, profit and loss, etc. could be effectively taught to the kids in the first language.
This helps them to correlate their learning with day to day applications. This further leads to improved mathematical aptitude and helps the students to understand higher and more complex mathematical problems easily.
It is also observed that the fear of mathematics which many kids have can be removed by teaching mathematics in an interesting way in the first language.
- In Science: Teaching science at school involves practical experiments and when the instructions are given in first languages by the teachers it makes the subject more interesting and meaningful.
Some words are useful when bilingual languages are taught to the children. During that time children can relate the words such as – reactions in chemistry, biology and other non technical words.
In this case, teachers also have to be aware of the bilingual languages and non technical words to teach the pupils.
- English: English has become an essential skill in the 21st century and it is used globally.
The British Council has stressed the importance of first language along with English learning.
The British Council has partnered with many Universities globally to run multilingual programs or teachings.
There is a challenge by the British Council which says that, when a child is comfortable and can communicate with his own native language, then only he will be able to learn all other things.
Sometimes there are some words of English which the students cannot understand even after the teacher uses various devices of teaching. In this type of cases, the use of the first language is very effective.
There are certain idioms and proverbs of English which can be best explained when compared with the first language. Otherwise, kids will misunderstand the idioms and proverbs in English.
Switching to the first language will be a big boon for teachers, too. This situation on the ground is that many teachers in “English medium” schools are sometimes not even fluent in English.
- Humanities: Humanities subjects like history, social science, civics, makes more sense and are more relatable when taught in first languages.
- Grammar: Some words in grammar are similar in the two languages. Example: the present and the past tenses, the punctuation marks, voice, etc.
To conclude, knowing more than one language and talking in the mother tongue is a matter of pride.
Time and again it has been seen that famous academicians, scientists, doctors and artists have completed their primary education in native languages or the first language.
Early schooling in kids’ first language is recommended as per the new National Education Policy (NEP) in India, accepted by the Union Cabinet on 29.07.2020. This improves the learning processes.
Speaking in mother tongue is important in education, surveys showed that a child’s brain development takes place, develops a positive attitude towards society and improves thinking and reading skills.
A study in Turkish secondary school classes showed that when mother tongue was completely banned in a group discussion among the pupils, the interaction between pupils became shorter, more constrained and less natural and so the weaker students could not study further in that school.
The only continent where a greater number of children start primary school using a foreign language like English, French and Portuguese is Africa. This leads to educational failure and many students are unable to continue education.
Some parents prefer to send their kids to English-medium schools as it is a general perception that English language secures success in future life.
Some experts declare that English schooling is not the best all the time and children can read and write and also develop their skills in any language of their preferences.
A number of international schools are focusing on teaching mother tongue programmes for the children of the elementary school.
The government published bilingual dictionaries, supplementary written communications, course books, and language instruction manual books in the mother tongue for the beginners.
It is seen that due to current globalization and cross-marriages, there is a lack of native language as mother tongue is diminishing. Mother tongue is diminishing and is not passed on from one generation to another generation.
As far as possible the kids should be taught the mother tongue as it will improve the quality of their personal and professional life.
Learning new languages is always good when it is from the known to the unknown. Having a strong foundation in the first language or the local language, kids can comfortably make a shift to learning another new language.
Implementing the first language is also challenging at the same time. Consider a class with 30 numbers of kids coming from different language backgrounds. It would be a challenge for the teacher to teach such a heterogenous group in a single class.
“What is a nation without a mother tongue?”