The Language Tangle

The first language acquired by the child is said to be his mother tongue.  In most cases,  it is the language of his mother,  but it could also be the language of his father. In rare cases it could it could be third language which the child has somehow picked up in a specific social setting.  Our mother tongue is the language with which we are emotionally attached. There is something sacred about the mother tongue because a part of our culture heritage.  We feel it our moral obligation to love and cherish this heritage.  No wonder Gandhi ji once said, "I must cling to my mother tongue as to my mother's breast....  It alone can give me the giving milk ."

    The importance of mother tongue can never be undermined  or denied. It is the language through which we organise our first experience of the world and recognize our environment.  We often keep on expressing our basic needs in this language even in our later life.  We can generally convey our ideas, thoughts, joys, sorrow and other feelings in the beast manner through our mother tongue.

    Truly our mother tongue is as inseparable from us as our shadow. For many people, even when they regularly use more than one language, no language can ever completely replace the mother tongue.  The influence of the mother tongue is generally so great on the other tongues learnt by us that we are easily distinguished from others by our tone and pronunciation,  even though we might be speaking in another native or foreign language.  Since language is also a vehicle of its own culture,  mother has a great influence in forming our opinions of the world as well as our higher sensibilities. 

    The role of mother tongue in school education cannot be over emphasized.  There is little doubt that especially the early schooling of the child should  be through his mother tongue.  getting the knowledge of the world through a foreign tongue has innumerable disadvantages.  The child  has to first learn the foreign tongue well and then through its medium he has to learn the new information or skills.  Naturally,  if the child dose not develop an ability in the foreign tongue,  he cannot do well in other fields of knowledge either.  Whereas, in reality, he might indeed be very good at other subjects, but facing problem in learning through the medium of another tongue rather his own mother tongue.         

    Obviously,  mother tongue should be learnt and learnt very well,  if one has to have a sound basis in life.  More so because all of us love our mother tongue very much.  However, our love for our mother tongue should not prejudice us against other languages.  Current linguistic research has proved to us that no language is superior to any other language. All human language have similar capacity. The development and growth of language depends upon its use. 

  Unfortunately, in the decaying social set-up that we in live these days, the boundaries  between the rational and irrational dissolve very quickly. At times,  sentiments and emotions dominate what is reasonable and just.  The definitions of the most obvious things,  therefore,  undergo a change.  For example,   way way back 1881, for census purposes,  mother tongue was defined as the language spoken by the individual from the cradle. In 1891 census,  it was changed to the language ordinarily spoken in the parental home ' of each person'. 

    In 1901,  it became 'the language ordinarily used' and in1911 as ' the language which each person spoke at home'.  In1961,  mother tongue was defined as the language spoken in the childhood by the person's mother to the person or mainly spoken in the household. 

    However,  1971,  it was specified as the language returned by a person as his mother tongue'.  This has enabled  people to identify their mother tongue,  at times,  on the basis of their socio - political affiliation,  group identify and even cultural or economic status. 

    Since language have also been used as means of getting political power,  narrow political or individual aspirations rule the statement regarding the choice of one's mother tongue. On the other hand,  the dominant linguistic majority in the region might evoke a reaction against a particular language in the minorities by their  over - enthusiasm to promote the the language. Thus people in the area might become biased for or against a particular language.  Such a situation is most unfortunate. 

    While the significance of mother tongue cannot be ignored,  it must also be kept in mind that one cannot confine oneself to only learning one's cradle language.  Communication in different ethnic,  linguistic,  social,  political and national groups would be impossible if everyone learnt only one's mother tongue. The necessity of learning one or more other tongue cannot be overlooked  if we have to exist in an ever-uniting world. 

    In the Indian context, there is a need for link language at the national level. Unfortunately,  the official language of the country has still not been decided,  even after 43 years of our independence. Therefore,  the issue is quite confused. 

    Further,  there is also need for learning an international language for every enlightened citizen of the world.  The international language gives  us the benefit of the latest scientific and technological know - how.  Most transaction take place in the world through the medium of an international language.   It helps us  to communicate across the national boundaries and enables us to learn from other peoples  culture and history.   In the process,  we can disseminate our own culture and traditions  throughout the world.  The International language should also be taught in all seriousness in the school and colleges,  besides the mother tongue. The international  language should replace instruction in anyone's mother tongue.  In fact,  it should be an auxiliary to the various national ones and exit alongside of them. 

    Human heart is like box and language is the key.  Therefore,  if there is to be unity and friendship among the people of the world,  they should  also learn to respect each other's language.  It is time when the long awaited world unity is fast approaching,  that the leaders of the world mutually decide upon an international language to save the people from much of the existing linguistic chauvinism and even hardship.  he international language may either be selected from one of the existing languages or newly created keeping in mind the functional needs. 

    In that case, even though the number of living languages would remain as great as it is now,  all the people of the world will have one language  in common. Each child, then, can be conveniently taught two languages - his mother tongue and the internationally selected tongue which should preferably have same script all over the world. Of course,  the child would be free to learn  as many other languages as he wants to  according to his need and capacity.

    The sooner there is proper understanding  about languages among the peoples of the world,  the sooner we can hope to have the elusive world peace. Our urgent need is to develop a saner attitude towards our mother and and all other tongues.