As Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.” That's the power of the mother tongue. We all feel a deeper connection to our culture, the place we were born, and our mother language at a foreign place when suddenly we meet someone from the same background.
Every year, 21 February is recognised as International Mother Language Day. The idea to celebrate this day was initiated by Bangladesh. The day has been in observance since 2000. The theme of 2022 is “Using technology for multilingual learning Challenges and opportunities.”
The Director-General of UNESCO says "Technology can provide new tools for protecting linguistic diversity. Such tools, for example, facilitating their spread and analysis, allow us to record and preserve languages that sometimes exist only in oral form. Put simply, they make local dialects a shared heritage. However, because the Internet poses a risk of linguistic uniformization, we must also be aware that technological progress will serve only as long as we make the effort to ensure that it does".
India is a place where numerous cultures, languages, celebrations, people and colours can be seen at once. City Spidey on the occasion of International Mother Language day, talked to people from different regions of India to know their opinion on their mother tongue.
Atasi Misra (41), belongs to Orissa and has been living in Delhi for the last 11 years. She is a Delhi-based Odissi dancer and founder of Kala Kalp Sanskrutik Sansthan. she opines “Mother language is that much important to me as much as my mother is important to me. It is the first language I started speaking when I came to earth but yes, I understand language is a way to communicate. So that is why I give equal importance to other languages but my priority is always Odia.”
While talking about how she is promoting her culture and language, Atasi expressed “India’s core language is Sanskrit and most of the Indian languages are developed through Sanskrit only. So I always try to promote Hindi, Sanskrit and Odiya which connect all of us.”
When talking about her students she expressed “If any of my learners are from Odisha, I always motivate them to learn, write and understand their mother tongue first. Then try to communicate in it. As most people only try to adapt the speaking skills of a particular language but do not try to understand its basics.”
“I feel lucky I've done my schooling from Odisha and that’s where I learned my mother language. My father always inspired us to appreciate our culture and that is why I've completed my schooling at Odia medium school. When I used to participate in cultural school functions it helped me to understand my literature, culture, and language in a better way.”
When you come out of your state, you have to learn another language to adapt but once I went abroad to showcase my art at the Oriya association. I had to give a speech and was offered a translator because most of the artists do not know English well. I can speak English but chose Odia. It was an honour for me to talk in my language on the international stage and represent my culture. Later on, I expressed that I feel grateful to talk in my mother tongue and I know English well.”
Noor Zafar (24), a Delhi-based writer from Lucknow shared “Every language has its flavor and rhythm. Urdu comes with a magnitude of poise, and of what we call 'Tehzeeb' in Lucknow.”
Noor feels that Urdu literature has grown with our subcontinent, drawing from chapters from history. “Urdu can be as raw, scathing as it can be romantic. We may encounter new forms of spoken word art every day, Urdu will always have its relevance. I am happy for organisations like Rekhta who have conveyed the beauty of this language to youth.”
Ankita Sharma(34)a journalist from Rajasthan, working in Delhi shared “You can still find grannies of Rajasthan speaking and following their language and culture but somehow our upcoming generation is let into it. When we meet someone speaking Marwadi near us it feels so great. This instant connects us and we hope to continue our relationship with them. On the other hand, we feel guilty for not being so aware of our culture and not using our language much in front of our kids. So we wish to take him to his village every year so that he can learn and understand his roots.”
While talking about her experience with westernisation she expressed “Somehow westernisation has shown a positive change in our culture. Earlier females used to live with veils on their faces every time but now due to modernisation there is some freedom and they can live with their choice. Many parents from the same region inspire their daughters to come out and get financial independence and educate themselves.”
She also shared her experience of her stay in Chennai for 6 months. “I lived in Chennai for some time and that was unfortunately not a good part of my life. I am also an Indian like the people of South India but they somehow perceived me differently. At that moment I missed my state, my people and my culture the most and felt deeply connected to my roots.”
Jasmeet Kaur (26) English teacher from a school situated in Central Delhi shared. “I am happy that I've been taught Punjabi since birth. My mother always took time from her daily routine and used to give Gurbani lectures. This connected me deeply with my culture, language and spirituality.”
I can not do something on a large platform to promote my language and culture. So I take little steps like speaking Punjabi at home with my parents. I teach English but when it comes to free time I also speak in Punjabi with my Sikh students. During the summer vacations, I used to give free Punjabi classes at Malviya Nagar gurudwara.” She adds, "Somewhere westernisation has impacted our culture, which can be seen in Punjabi songs and movies. Now the female protagonist prefers to dress up like a woman from the western world rather than from their region."