By Dr. Tasaduk Hussain Itoo
Mother Language is our visible and invisible heritage and one of the main tools for development. All kinds of actions in the development of mother tongue encourage not only linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also raises full awareness of linguistic consciousness and cultural customs around the world and encourages empathy based on understanding, generosity and message.
MOTHER TONGUE AS A BLESSING
Mother tongue is blessed with amazing power of reassurance. Some time back while I as a doctor on duty, a concerned staff nurse accorded to a patient , called me to check the patient (who was undergoing blood transfusion) if there is any kind of transfusion reaction. I went to the patient and discovered NOT any kind of reaction but the patient was highly anxious, heart rate almost touching 140. I asked the patient “what happened? are you alright?”. It was late night , the patient kept on insisting me with anxiety- enriched confident voice, “Dr sahab please discontinue the transfusion and let it continue tomorrow morning please”. I kept on motivating the patient in view of the protocol of the hospital/ guidelines to blood transfusion. But the patient kept on same note. At a while the attendant with the patient found me as a Kashmiri. She put hearing aid in patient’s left ear and told me to speak now. I told the patient “Ba chus akh kashur doctor ( I am a Kashmiri Doctor)” . On listening to my voice in Kashmiri language , the patient at a moment got upright and relaxed ,with heart rate normalising below 100 at once. The patient said to me “Bas Wen Chun Mein Kehn Parwa, meh aao wen panun Kashur doctor. Yel wen blood transfusion poure gache tele , wen Chun Mein Kehn Parwa kehn fikr” . The patient happened to be a Kashmiri Pandit and offered me unconditional blessings and love. The above story immensely validate the healing power of our mother language.
On this year’s International Mother Tongue Day (21 February), I ask myself if it can prove to be a day as we recognise the role of every stakeholder of our society in encouraging mother tongue? Can we share the beauty and power of literature through our mother languages? In this article we will be more focused in assuming the role that our society can play in enhancing Mother Tongue development.
ROLE OF FAMILY
Addressing the mother tongue language in your family and your environment with your children routinely, and having positive discussions about the role of it – will surely create a huge impact on maintaining its zenith. No matter how you personally choose to learn any of the language, you can make a difference for your child by being positive about their opportunities to learn and use mother tongue language particularly. Be firm in your own belief about the usefulness and benefit of your mother tongue language, and pass this belief on to your children. As per a psychological study , children usually value the language their parents are offering them learn to , no matter what other people say, and they will be able to use such language to access their own heritage and culture. You need to appreciate them for their efforts in using mother tongue language and acknowledge to them the hard work they are doing for cherishing it.
ROLE OF TEACHERS
Teachers in current times have an immense role to play in encouraging the learning and use of mother tongue language. Personally as an online Educator , I usually feel emulated to discuss with my Educator Relationship Manager regarding the creation of course lessons in Kashmiri Language besides English and other languages of interest. As teachers we need to inculcate and explore the idea of enhancing learning processes among students to learn mother tongue language more positively. We need to practice mother tongue language exploration in our classrooms, by the language of greetings, taking the roll, and other classroom routines. If children are unable to answer questions or respond in the school language, let them do it in their own mother tongue language and then use the resources available to you (other students, teaching assistants, technology) to translate the answer if necessary. In areas where the mother language is perceived as being of lesser status than the school language, address this issue in class, to let the children know that you value their language and support them in continuing to use and grow in that mother language.
ROLE OF ADMINISTRATORS AND POLICY MAKERS
Create in-school (and community) platforms in which mother language is celebrated rather than discouraged or shamed. Provide staff (teaching and support) with adequate professional caliber to understand the mother language development and how to support students who are learning mother language while also learning content in the classroom. If “every teacher is a language teacher” in your school, make sure you are giving the teachers the knowledge and tools they need to fulfill that role. Create a school language policy that is inclusive rather than exclusive, and that creates spaces in the school for the students to develop their home mother language in particular. This can be metaphorical space, in the classrooms, or physical space, for home language/mother tongue teaching. And when staffing these programs, ensure that the pedagogy and methodology of these lessons is a good fit for the mission and vision of the school and the daily school experiences of the students – the quality of the programs and the alignment with the school curriculum sends a powerful message to students and families about the value of their mother languages.
Our school administration need to consider carefully the value of mother language-based requirements for school entry. Many parents make decisions about language use with their children based on what school/schools they hope to have them attend. However, a child who “speaks English” at home with their parents who are not fluent speakers of the language is not necessarily better set up for success in an English-language school than a child who speaks no English but arrives at school with a well-developed home language/mother tongue (and the latter child is easier to provide support for in many ways).
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Our Government can play a precious role in encouraging mother language by framing target- oriented language policy for enactment. Have knowledge about mother language development and the importance of home languages/mother tongue as a fundamental part of any support or information you provide for parents and parents-to-be. Ensure that all professionals who work with young families (pediatricians, nurses, child care workers, etc.) also have accurate information about these topics, so they can advise parents accurately; they are the front-line for parental support and they need to be able to convince parents to make the right decisions. Engage the community in discussions on mother language use and development – blog, tweet, spread the word in whatever ways work in your community. The more knowledge and support parents, educators, professionals, have about mother language development the more the children in your communities will become successfully able to participate fully in education and society.
ROLE OF MEDIA
Media particularly the print media can have an immense role to play in enhancing Mother Tongue development. If we talk of our Kashmiri Language, there are many newspaper dailies including other weekly magazines that are published in Kashmiri Language. This is an encouraging sign. To enlighten it more, we need to introduce as maximum as possible dailies to the front to reach to climax of enhancing our mother language development.
ROLE OF CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS
Cultural organisations have a pivatol role to play in sensitizing the people towards exploration of their mother language. Though these organisations are working their job well but they need to foster research related to socio-cultural, ethnic, political and economic dimensions of mother language development. They need to organise specific and goal – oriented functions/seminars at all levels to possibly explore the core principles in mother tongue development.
In tail piece, I would say that each parent, teacher, administrator, policy-maker, media person or any cultural organization has a role to play in changing the linguistic landscape to create together a levelled platform in which the language priorities for children should focus on mother language development besides other multi-lingual development. Our mother tongues are the languages we feel at home with – the languages we are comfortable to use. Whether it is one or a combination does not matter. What matters is feeling a sense of ownership, belonging and strength we develop in encouraging our mother language.
Dr. Tasaduk Hussain Itoo is Medical Officer at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Super Speciality Hospital Jammu and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org