The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has decided to celebrate February 21 as Mother Tongue Day, in an attempt to give a fillip to all Indian languages. The Board has said that schools could organise competitions such as song recitation, creative writing, debate, and elocution, general knowledge contests on mother tongue, translation of any literary passage into mother tongue, an exhibition of posters on language diversity of India and its rich heritage.
The UGC’s request to all universities and institutions to celebrate “Matrubhasha Divas” on February 21, conforming to UNESCO’s declaration of the day as ‘International Mother Language’ day, must be appreciated. In India, the ‘mother languages’ are often ignored and sometimes actively repressed due to the notion that they are “underdeveloped” and lack the ability to capture modern knowledge. The biggest threat is posed by the current educational systems that often refuse to use mother tongues as mediums of instruction or even to offer them as elective subjects. The government and private institutions must diligently observe this day and ensure that the mother languages “are held on to”.
The importance of the mother tongue even as a means of communication at home on a day-to-day basis is decreasing (February 19). The very first set of words a baby hears from its mother is in the language of the mother. When the scenario changes and children shift to using English and conveniently forget the mother tongue, one does not realise that it is tragic. It is very essential for children to know their roots in terms of country and language. Getting children to learn different languages from a very young age is good, and it is amazing how they switch from one language to another while conversing.
There are many benefits associated with an education that takes into account children’s mother tongues: Children learn better and faster in a language they can understand. They enjoy school more, they feel more at home. Pupils tend to show increased self-esteem. Sometimes, the term “mother tongue” or mother language is used for the language that a person learned as a child at home. Children growing up in bilingual homes can, according to this definition, have more than one mother tongue or native language.
As a Tamilian, I feel proud to speak in my mother tongue whenever I get a chance to speak on a common platform. I belong to a Tamil Brahmin family and a proud Indian. That Tamil language has its relevance and more importantly, a perfectly anchored place in modern-day higher education is reflected in the results of the Civil Service Examinations.
Tamil Nadu accounted for 16.2 per cent of successful candidates in recently concluded civil service examinations. A large majority of them belong to the middle class and poor families and have been groomed through Tamil medium. I studied in Tamil medium throughout my school days but picked up English language from the sixth standard and I treat both English and mother tongue in the same wavelength and interested to learn Marathi also as a local for more than a decade.
The Tamil language has a rich heritage and enriching power will be seen, heard and appreciated during the five days Ulaga Tamil Semmozhi Manadu that has been organized by our visionaries to usher Renaissance in Tamil and transmit this heritage to posterity. In no other language could presentation of ideas be made as straight and crisp as in Tamil, he said and regretted that the world did not know so much about great poets such as Bharatiyar, Bharatidasan, and even Tiruvalluvar, despite the translation of Tirukkural in many languages, as it knew about English poets such as Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, and Keats. The credit of simplifying Tamil into a layman’s language went to Bharatiyar and Bharatidasan, adding that as in the case of literary works of the past, the emerging literary form, puthukavithai, was reaching the common man in a better way and the future for Tamil was great.
Even though my best part of the stay was in Ghaziabad in UP and Mumbai in Maharashtra, I still cherish the memory of my mother tongue and love to read and write and go through the lines of Tirukkural on daily basis and follow the meaning to the hilt for the benefit of everyone. At this juncture, I thank my parents to bringing me in a best and congenial atmosphere to become a responsible citizen of India. I thank my teachers for having inculcated interest in both English and local language. I thank my cricket coaches for bringing out the best in me and that helped me to develop the language in a much better frame of mind and become a freelance writer for the last 5 decades. Tamil language proved to be a tonic for me and earn name and fame in this competitive world and English helped me side by side to go deep into this world.