Mother tongue is the most important language a child can learn—it is the first language (native language) a child learns from his family. The mother tongue, in most non-English countries, is not the language of instruction in schools. There is no denying that English is a truly indispensable international language that joins people from all over the world, yet the importance of the native language is profound. Research (one was done in Nigeria that has many languages) has proven that if children are taught in their mother tongue, their intelligence and learning abilities develop faster. It is a sad fact that in order to appear educated and ‘international’ many people denounce their native language and prefer communicating only in English. Relegating the mother tongue to the dustbin can have very unhealthy consequences for the country.
A child’s mother tongue is their birth language and connects them to their very roots and culture. It is the first language that the child learns and through which the child learns to explore the world. The native tongue is the fundamental language and if its foundation is strong, it gives the child greater confidence to face the world.
Here are some reasons learning one’s native language is so important for a child:
- Children who start their education with their mother tongue are more confident, have greater self-esteem and learn better than those who start with a foreign language. Research has shown that intellectual growth and cognitive development are faster in children who are fluent in their mother tongue. It is to be noted that when a person thinks, they do so in their mother tongue.
- A firm command of one’s native language gives the child greater confidence in learning other languages, and this can definitely be very advantageous for their career.
- By learning the mother tongue, children develop greater respect for their culture and heritage and develop patriotism, a sense of pride and cultural identity. When a person has no respect for one’s own culture, he/she will unlikely to have genuine respect for other cultures. Also, history is better understood when it is learned in one’s mother tongue. Besides, when the history of a country is written in a foreign language it is almost always distorted by those in power. A lot of wrong history has been taught in schools in India. Children well versed in their mother tongue can read literature and other subjects about their own country.
- Children who get educated in their native language experiment and explore more, and display greater curiosity. Often, when students are instructed to produce their work such as science experiment findings or project work, etc. in English (or any other foreign language), they perform poorly or are mediocre. However, when allowed to submit their work (project report/fact findings, etc.) in their mother tongue, they excel and surpass other students. One can easily imagine how much children could otherwise be labeled as low-performers or incompetent. A lot of talent in children goes to waste because their teachers/instructors do not communicate in the mother tongue.
- When people do not honor their mother tongue, the country becomes a sitting duck for cultural invasion by another country. In almost every case, the seamier aspects of another country’s culture make roadways and start eating up the indigenous culture like termites. This is what is happening in India where all the unpleasant aspects of Western cultures are being mindlessly copied. The entertainment industry has played a vital role in inflicting a lot of damage to Indian culture. The legacy of the British Colonial rule still continues so much so that people in India who do not know English are not considered smart—this has to stop.
- When a concept (no matter how complex) is learned in one’s natural first language, it need NOT be relearned in another language but simply needs to be translated in that language. For eg., a student who learns trigonometry in his native tongue can easily understand the concepts of trigonometry in English (or any other language) once he has learnt it.
- A child who is cut off from their native language cannot form deep bonds with family members and relatives (grandparents, etc.)—this is certainly undesirable.
In conclusion, a lack of proficiency in one’s mother tongue can never be healthy for a child; it is a good sign that Governments all over the world are taking notice of this fact. For too long, the mother tongue (one reason being colonization of many countries like India, Egypt, Vietnam, etc.) has been ignored, but this should not be allowed to happen any further. Any system of education that ignores the mother tongue is bound to be ineffective, unproductive, and will only harm the children of that country.