A foetus in the womb grows up in the familiarity of its mother’s voice. Upon entering the world, it is even believed to recognise its mother’s language. Perhaps, this is why our native language has come to be called ‘mother tongue’. It is the language we have grown up with since childhood. We are therefore fluent in it, identify ourselves with it, and express our thoughts and emotions through its words.
In a country like India where there are several mother tongues, there is often a bridge language to facilitate seamless communication between multilingual communities. We hence learn the bridge language for day-to-day communication say, at school or at workplace. But often, in our attempt to become fluent in this language, we might inadvertently drift away from our mother tongue. This phenomenon has become so widespread that several native languages around the world now face the threat of extinction.
On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, Soulveda explores the importance of mother tongue from a cultural standpoint.
Helps form cultural identity
A lot of us often settle in places where people speak a different language. Over the course of time, we too learn the new language and attempt to belong culturally in the new place. And yet, when we meet someone–even a stranger–who speaks our mother tongue, we feel an instant connection with them. We feel nostalgic about home. And for that reason, mother tongue is more than just a tool for communication. It is an integral part of who we are–our very identity.
Sociologist Malathi Gopal agrees. “Our mother tongue helps us reinforce and enhance our social and cultural identity–not only to ourselves but also to the world. It heightens our pride in our own culture. When we talk in our mother tongue, we reveal to the listener the place we are from and the culture we belong to. Even minute nuances of a language, like the accent for instance, can say a lot about who we are,” she says.