Should Your Child Be Taught In Her Mother Tongue?

Do you remember which language you spoke at home when you were a child? I bet it was your mother tongue, even though you might have studied in an English medium school.


I have studied in an English medium school in Ahmedabad, but apart from school, we hardly conversed in English either at home or with friends. Hindi being my mother tongue, I mostly talked in Hindi. With my Gujju friends and neighbours, I conversed in Gujarati once I learnt the language, which I remember I learnt pretty early.


Speaking in Hindi as a child didn’t hamper my language learning ability. I can read, write and speak in Hindi, English, Gujarati and French. And, I can understand Marwari and Marathi. However, though I am very comfortable speaking in English, sometimes I get tongue tied or feel hesitant while conversing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is not my first language.


That was one of the primary reasons that pushed me to talk to my child in English as early as when she was in my womb. I wanted her to be fluent in English and not hesitate while speaking it, as that would be the language of instruction in school. I wanted her to be as fluent in English as she would later on be in Hindi (Hindi being the language spoken at home, I presumed, would come to her naturally).


So, my 6-year old daughter not only speaks English, but also thinks and reacts in English. Sometimes she mumbles in sleep, that too in English. English is her first language and her mother tongue. Mother tongue can be a very confusing term. A mother tongue is a language that a child learns at the lap of her mother, even when that language may or may not be the primary language spoken by her mother or in the family. While, the first or primary language is the one that a child is first exposed to whether at home, community, kindergarten or school. They can be sometimes different, especially in a multilingual country like India.


Despite an excellent command over English, for her age, for a very long time, her Hindi was not what I expected it to be. She hesitated speaking in Hindi as it required more effort, and she was not ready to step out of her comfort zone. She refused to speak to anyone who conversed in Hindi. She didn’t even talk to her grandparents or friends because they didn’t know English. It was a matter of concern for me. I had wanted her to speak in English, but not at the cost of Hindi, the family and national language. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. That’s when I started teaching her Hindi. Now, two years later, she can read, write and speak in Hindi. It’s not as good as her English yet, but she will get there soon. She is also exposed to other languages like Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi. I am not very concerned about her learning other languages, as it is very easy for a child living in India to be bilingual or plurilingual due to access to so many languages.


A month ago, I came across an article that said little kids should be encouraged to talk in their mother tongue/family language. Intrigued, I dove deeper and came across many articles that clearly said that learning in mother tongue first plays an important part in your child’s success. A lot of benefits were cited. I am presenting a few of them which I felt most worthy:


  • A person has a better capacity to understand things in his/her mother tongue.
  • S/he is able to learn related languages faster. For example, a person who knows Konkani can pick up Marathi, Malayalam easily. Likewise, Hindi speaking people learn Gujarati, Marwari easily.
  • S/he is able to express ideas and feelings better in his/her mother tongue.
  • Because it’s a language that is easily understood by her/his social community (friends and family), s/he is able to develop his/her social skills and build her/his own social community.
  • Some articles went as far as to announce that new and original ideas take birth and get shaped only in one’s own mother tongue and that most great writers have been able to produce great literature in their own language.
  • As you have a better understanding of grammar and syntax in your mother tongue, you can apply the same knowledge while learning a foreign language and pick it up faster.


Reading those articles made me realize that life wouldn’t have been tough for my daughter had I introduced Hindi to her first. She would have coped with it like I had done. We learnt our regional languages first, and it hasn’t hampered our growth in any way or made us any less successful. There are so many prominent Indian writers for whom English is not a mother tongue and yet write in English.


This is particularly beneficial to parents who think that English being the language of instruction in most city schools in India, must be absolutely taught to their little kids.

  • This means we can take a breather and not force our kids to learn English from day one.
  • This means we do not need to spend sleepless nights thinking how our child can speak flawless English like the neighbour’s child.
  • This means that despite a “less than great” vocabulary and limited communication skills our kids can still do better.


On the other hand, to parents like me who have already introduced English first to their kids instead of mother tongue, I would like to say don’t lose heart, there is no research saying that people who do not learn their mother tongue first do not do well in their later life. That’s reassuring, isn’t it?


However, I would urge new parents to do their research before they zero in on a language that they think needs to be introduced to their child as her/his first language.


Also read: How does hearing many languages affect your child's speech development?


#mothertongue #internationalmothertongueday #firstlanguage

Baby, Toddler

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Early Learning & Brain Development Speech & Languages

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Comments (28)

Both r equally imp

Yes!! Yes!!
English English kartey kartey our generation has forgotten the value of our native languages and culture.

yes Undoubtedly i believe in teaching mother tongue to our children.. Though I m an English Teacher by profession, i think that mothertongue creates greater impact on the minds of children as compared to English. Anyways the rich diversity n languages of India r so precious n it must be is only possible if we teach them..
I was in English medium ..but i learnt my Mothertongue Gujarati at the age of 25 after my marriage when i understood the need n importance of it.. The rich literature of our mothertongue creates huge impression in our minds too.. since then i have decided that i would surely teach my baby my Mothertongue..

I wish I knew this before

Yes very much.

Both are important

Yes I agree mother tongue should be taught first

An eye opener. Mother tongue should be taught first.

Am so glad this article is resonating with so many mothers! I hope we see things differently in the coming years and give equal importance if not more to our mother tongue!

It's equally important

Yes mother tongue is very important Because I experienced so many times my son say word which was not explain by me but he says n I m surprised how he know this words , from wer he learn but it's form learning or catching words while we talk in our mother tongue

This is so well written.

Yes mother tongue is equally important.In India thankfully we are blessed with bilingual or even trilingual abilities. English she will learn in school .so try to focus on mother tongue at home.My child can speak three languages.

Yes off course mother tongue must be taught first

My baby is good in every thing but she has sardi and jukham frequently . What can ?

I need eating routine for my 4yrs baby girl

diet for 5yrs old daughter she is underweight

Exactly looking for it!

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