Importance Of Teaching Native Language To Young Children
Every year at a religious ceremony in my family, I read out a story in our native tongue as a part of the ritual.This is a language that otherwise everyone can speak and understand. But they can't read or write it and it saddens me a bit.
I've observed this pretty often:
- Parents don't speak/ speak little using the mother tongue at home. If they do speak, there's a chance they don't read or write the language.
- Kids are forced to converse in English even at home. On one hand, it's great for everyone in general and especially your kids to talk and read fluently in English, one of the dominant world languages. But on the other hand, by not teaching children the native language, we will be taking away their Identity.
There have been studies that teaching children their home language has many advantages-
- It will increase their grasping power of other languages at school
- It increases confidence by making them relate to where they are from
- Promotes awareness of ethnicity
- Gives them opportunity to learn about our rich culture via newspapers, books, magazines, plays, movies, etc and impart a unique social and personal identity.
- Children find it easier to express their thoughts and emotions, with a meaningful connection, when they talk in their mother tongue.
- They can connect with others, especially grandparents who may not be fluent in English.
- Festivals and religious rituals, ceremonies take on a deeper meaning when they know the language.
This holds true for children who live abroad/in another city or state, who find it difficult to bond with their cousins and other family back home.
Children are born linguists. Also, they learn differently than adults. They will learn to speak based on what they are listening to.
My daughter was exposed to a large number of people who spoke our native language - parents, grandparents, relatives, family friends. We would sing/listen to a lot of songs in this language. We introduced new words on a daily basis in the mother tongue only.
Hence it was no surprise that my daughters first words and sentences were in our mother tongue, in fact, it was a while before she started to converse in English. Very soon she realized who spoke what and she would converse only in that specific language with the person.
I plan to introduce the written script over the next few years and will also buy early learner's books, similar to the ones available in English.
For children who grow up abroad or who don't have people speaking/reading or writing the language around them- it won't be as easy. In such cases, parents must take additional effort.
It's best to start early, as the grasping power for languages is better in the initial years. Some do believe that introducing many languages might confuse the child, but I feel the opposite is true. Multilingualism is beneficial.
Also read: 5 Ways Boys Are Different From Girls
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