Mother tongue refers to a person’s native language – a language learned from birth. Also called first language, dominant language, home language, and native tongue. Language is an important part of any society, because it enables people to communicate and express themselves. When a language dies , future generations lose a vital part of culture.
Language preservation is the effort to prevent language from becoming unknown. A language is at risk of being lost when it is no longer taught to younger generations. More than 19,500 languages and dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues. According to a census analysis, there are 121 languages which are presented in two parts –languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, comprising 99 languages plus the category “total of other languages”, spoken by 10,000 or more people in India, which has a population of 121cr.
In 2020 the Parliament of India passed a bill to make “KASHMIRI” an official language of Jammu and Kashmir along with Dogri, Hindi, English and Urdu. Kashmiri is also among the 22 scheduled languages of India. There are about 7 million speakers of Kashmiri language.
But the question is, if our mother tongue is Kashmiri, why we feel ashamed of speaking in mother tongue? Why school authorities, , especially in private institutions, discourage students for speaking Kashur?
Research has shown that children, who have initially started their learning in their mother tongue, seem to have a better ability to learn other languages and generally develop good language skills later in life. Kashmiri is our identity and we will cease to be Kashmiris if we continue to treat our mother tongue the way we have been treating it. We are being ridiculed for ignoring Kashmiri and this has won us the dubious distinction of being the only people on earth to hate their mother tongue.
Modern youth of Kashmir feel ashamed to speak in the Kashmiri language. They considered speaking in Kashmiri as inferior in the society and among the peer groups majority of Kashmiris talk to their children in Urdu. We have always felt ashamed of our own language because we have always maintained a psychological distance from our very own language. Kashmiri, they find boring, un-cool, offensive and degrading. The results are obvious. Don’t even for a second think that I hate Urdu/English, and of course, I’m writing all this in English. It is a good sign when you see people of a nation speaking diverse language but not at the cost of their ability to express themselves properly in any of them. It is an irony that I’m talking about all this and bashing Kashmiris for their lack of knowledge about their own language while the fact is that, most of Kashmiris are unable to read/write Kashmiri properly.
Globally, there are 50-75 million ‘marginalized’ children who are not enrolled in school. Children whose primary language is not the language of instruction in school are more likely to drop out of schools or fail in early grades.
Article 350A of the Constitution of India; Facilities for instruction in mother tongue at primary stage of education to children.
Language represents the culture and life style of society. Education is to prepare for life in society. Learning about our culture and other subjects in a foreign language can lead to lack of clarity.
· The trend of English as the medium of instruction is increasing in Kashmir.
· China, Japan, Germany and many other countries are doing very well without English education.
· Philippines revised its education system and started to implement the mother tongue as the medium of instruction and the result is the drastic increase in enrollments in rural areas.
In Kashmir, like many other states of India, children face pressure to start their education in the dominant regional or international language, leaving their mother tongue at the school gate. Yet the evidence is that these schools do not serve children well.
Languages are never static. They evolve and adapt to the socio economic milieu. They, grow, shrink, transform, merge and sadly die. The great Indian poet, Acharya Dandi, had said that “if the light of language does not exist, we will be grapping in a dark world.
Language preservation and development needs a multi–prolonged approach. We must start by making the mother tongue as medium of instruction in our schools, and certainly at the primary level, also take all steps to make it the language of administration, banking and judicial proceedings. We have to protect and preserve our language and the best way is to constantly use it.
As Prof. Rahman Rahi rightly quotes: “whichever the nation, if it is conscious of the importance of its language, nobody can kill that language.” Kashmir has got its own culture and its own civilization. We are far more different from other nations, culturally as well as traditionally. So, it is we, on whom the future of our mother tongue depends. If we want an identity, we must become conscious of our language.
Let us wake up now. Let us preserve our mother tongue. If the current trend continues, the time may not be far when this language could became a thing of past.
Majid Farooq Sofi is pursuing Masters in Kashmiri from University of Kashmir.