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5 reasons why it is important to know your mother tongue really well

Are we neglecting our mother tongue by virtue of studying in English medium schools or then in our pursuit to learn a foreign language or two?

There is absolutely no denying the aspirational and commercial value that English commands, but is our impeccable English coming at the cost of being able to proudly read, write and speak our own mother tongue?

Language is surely a tool we use to communicate, a means towards an end, if you will. However, one’s mother tongue is way more than being merely a tool. Not knowing our mother tongue well enough could have an impact, way greater than what you might have imagined.

Here are 5 reasons why knowing to read, write and speak your mother tongue really well is important:

  1. It helps in cognitive as well as intellectual development

Research has shown time and again that when children are able to speak their mother tongue well, not only do they experience better cognitive development but also better intellectual development*.

Oftentimes, a child will have more exposure to the mother tongue than to the medium of instruction at school. Children therefore learn better in their mother tongue. In fact, research is very clear on how children with a solid foundation in their mother tongue have better educational success.+

  1. It helps in second language learning

Don’t most parents want their children to speak great English? What if I told you that learning English, or any other language for that matter, depends on how well the child has learnt their mother tongue?

Research points to how incomplete or inadequate skills in the first language make learning another language difficult for the child.++ Concepts and literacy skills picked up when learning the mother tongue can be extrapolated when learning other languages and are, in fact, a strong predictor of a child’s overall linguistic ability.

  1. It helps you connect with your culture and people

Our languages keep our cultural heritage alive. Cultural information read or heard in a foreign language can be difficult to understand or identify with, owing to a loss of meaning, impact and context.

It has also been observed that children, who have grown up abroad or in an environment where their mother tongue is hardly used, find it difficult to have a deeper and a more meaningful conversation with their grandparents or with other elders in their family, who do not speak English (that well).

Mother tongues thus become critical tools in connecting with our roots and our loved ones.

  1. It is professionally and commercially beneficial

Truth be told, Indian languages are assuming greater significance in the corporate world, with businesses going more local that ever before. As such, a good command over your mother tongue, coupled with the ability to read and write (type) it, can be a great advantage and could be a USP that helps you climb the corporate ladder faster.

Translation and localisation opportunities are also growing for Indians who have excellent command over English and their mother tongue. Things get even better if such people have a science, finance or legal background. Monetising the knowledge of your mother tongue has never been easier.

  1. Great command over your mother tongue is timeless class

Can anyone really deny the linguistic swag of a certain gentleman who goes by the name Amitabh Bachchan? It is really hard to decide which one he speaks better, English or then his mother tongue Hindi.

Having had the privilege to learn and speak a few foreign and Indian languages, I can tell you from personal experience too that, be it in the business context or in a social one, being able to speak your mother tongue, English and another foreign or Indian language fluently has never failed to attract attention, admiration and awe.

The way ahead…

Although learning to speak your mother tongue is best done within your family, we can surely help if you are keen to know how easy it is to be able to read and write or type them or how you could monetise your knowledge of your mother tongue.

Write to us at projects@bitsindia.co.in or call us on 83800 31438 for more information.

* Source: B. Schick, P. de Viliers, B. Hoffmeister, 2002. R.C. Dumatog, D.E. Dekker, 2003. S.D. Plessis, 2008

+ Source: J. Baker, J. Cummins, Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000

++ Source: Cummins, 2000. Koda, 2005

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Sandeep Nulkar Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, BITS Private Limited Sandeep Nulkar heads one of India’s largest translation and localisation companies. He is a linguist by passion, businessman by choice and author by circumstances. Over the past decade, he has been working closely with the corporate world and with students and the academia to bring credibility and recognition to the Indian translator within and outside India.