Have you ever experienced any of the following? If not, I suggest doing/noting any one of the below before reading this article:

  • Go to a 3 or 5-star hotel in any of the metro cities and talk to the waiter in your mother tongue and recieve a stink-eye
  • You meet your school/college friend and although both of you share a similar mother tongue, you have a conversation in English
  • How many of our friends ( or even ourselves) can read and write in English and in French/German better than your native language?

If you have experienced any of the above chances are you are an Indian. Although I write this article from an Indians perspective, it is important to note that this is applicable to all regions where Globalisation is leading to a slow death of the mother tongue/ native language

It isn’t that Globalisation had not affected languages in the past. If you look at the oxford dictionary, the English language one of the most versatile in the world has borrowed words from languages from all over the world. For example, more than a 100 words were borrowed from my native tongue the Tamil Language alone.

But what is happening right now is different. Many of us are unable to think, talk and write in our native language. For example, in many of the posher schools in Chennai, India more students study European languages as a second language rather than their mother tongue. Please note this is my personal experience not scrutinised and validated by peer-reviewed studies.

Sometimes it is not completely our fault either. Many 2nd and 3rd generation Indian Expats are unable to talk in their language of origin. It is a function of their environment.

But this incapacity of talking in us talking in our mother tongue is hurting us. Please remember, your mother tongue is your pathway to understanding and appreciating your culture and history. For example, try reading Ponniyin Selvan a modern Tamil classic in English and you will note the difference. If you want to know more about why you should Know and talk in your native tongue remember this famous quote of dubious authenticity which is attributed to Lord Macaulay

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

Please note although this quote is attributed to him, many scholarly researchers have shown that he did not give this speech in the British parliament in 1835

But for the purposes of making my case, it is a very important quote. It lays out in detail how breaking the culture is very important for long-term subjugation of a race.

I could go on and moan about the fact that when someone who to work in Japan he learns Japanese whilst in China it is important to know Mandarin but in India, we converse in English. But India is a heterogeneous country and a person should know at least 4-5 languages to converse with 90% of the population in their native tongue. English is here to stay in India. But we can protect our native tongue if we could incorporate it more into our daily lives. Some ideas include:

  • Read a book in your native language at least 2-3 hours a week
  • Watching the news in your regional language. This also helps you in knowing more about your the issues facing your local regions

Note: The irony is I have written a whole article about how we should converse in our mother tongue in English which is not my native tongue 😛