My son and me go to this park every evening, he is just 1.5 yrs old so most of his friends are accompanied by their parents and caretakers. Like every mom I do secret comparisons in my head with all kids – comparing their heights, their capabilities, their weight, their speaking abilities etc. These days I cant help but notice how almost all kids and their mothers converse in English and not their mother tongue. My son and me are the only ones speaking in Hindi with each other or with others. All the replies we get back are also in English! A part of me started thinking poor chap, he probably doesnt even understand what his friends or their mothers are saying. For example, I just taught him to answer to “Aapka naam kya hai” and he cutely says “Panam” (Pranav). Its just been a week since he learnt this reply but poor guy fails miserably when he gets a “Whats your name” thrown at him!
Lets take this speaking in English trend a notch higher. If you happen to visit the very posh MNC employee studded colonies in metro’s (my real life experience was in Hyderabad) then please just pay attention to the kids playing and be amazed when your hear their not only exceptional english but also the perfect american accents! I couldnt hold myself back when I encountered such accents and started asking kids where they got it from (offcourse i had to show to them how impressed I was on their superstar abilities) and here’s the answers I got:
- The parents travel to US a lot and sometimes the kids accompany so they picked up on their trip. Notice how an accent built over years just gets replaced by a short trip!
- The parents enroll these kids in schools with IB/AP boards with the main aim to one day send them abroad to study. And part of their curriculum also teaches them the accent — i have no clue how?
- Kids who have never traveled abroad picked it up from their friends because how cool is that!
I have lived abroad for over 10 years and my mother, who is an English professor, was very very clear about speaking proper English (we spoke hindi at home) but in an accent that you are comfortable in. Do tourists or NRI’s come to India and change their accent for us? then why should we?
As children we spoke in Hindi with our friends and family and English was a learnt and spoken at school. We turned out pretty fluent in English with this arrangement. In fact it has been proven by experts that to know and converse in your mother tongue makes you a smarter person! Look at the Chinese, Japanese and many European countries – They have preserved their identity by valuing their language.
Parents, introduce your kids to many languages (not accents!) through books and schools but do not take away the medium of conversation that is ours just because you feel English speaking kids will be more “elite” or privileged.
New age parents like us do not have as much time to instill a lot of cultural and spiritual values that our parents and grandparents did. It is vital to speak to our children in their mother tongue, because believe it or not just teaching to speak and be proud of your language will be the biggest step towards bringing them closure to our heritage.