No, I won’t talk about the famous TV serial of yesteryears or language goof-ups. I want to talk about our mother tongue and how much do kids these days know about their ‘mother tongue.’ I was in Kanpur last month, where all our relatives were gathered for a family function. One day, I told something to Z in Urdu and one of my aunts said “Arre usko Urdu samajh mein aati hai?” (She can understand Urdu as well?). Just for everyone out there, there is a difference between Urdu used by Ghalib and the language we speak in our day to day life… The one we speak is diluted version. Though, I understand poetic Urdu as well.
Then in her PTM last month, Z’s teacher told me “Zoe is very good when it comes to communicating and she picks new things up very fast. What other language do you guys speak at home? As she mostly communicates in English.” These instances made me think; when I was younger we used to speak in English with our dad and at school. With mom it was another case, not because mom didn’t understand the language (she did her Masters in English Literature), but because mom made an extra effort to help us be fluent in both Urdu and English. Thankfully, I grew up in North India and Urdu/Hindi were spoken everywhere. Zoe in Bangalore doesn’t come across many people who speak in her mother tongue.
I don’t know about others, but for me control over both the languages is extremely important. I think I have got this from my mom, who was very particular that we not only know the language, we know it well. And I give credit to Ma for making me what I’m today. I want to give the same to Z and now I purposely do couple of things which will help her have better command over both the languages.
Before I get into what can be done to raise bilingual children, let us understand why it is important to raise bilingual children.
Scientifically it has been proven bilingual kids are very creative.
They possess higher awareness of language properties.
Quoting from a study “Monolingual people only use 20% of their brain! When another language is learned, a different area of the brain is activated and engaged, utilizing a greater percentage of the brain”.
Bilingual kids are more inventive and creative when it comes to oral and written language.
Grammatical sensitivity is greater.
Bilingual kids have higher respect for different languages and are open to learn a third language in future.
Kids who are bilingual perform better in fluency, flexibility, and originality
Tips to raise bilingual kids:
We as parents make sure we communicate with Z in English and Urdu, when at times she doesn’t understand the latter, I say something in Urdu then translate it for her.
My house help used to speak to Z in broken English; I have requested her to stop doing that.
I pick a lot of bilingual books for Z, unfortunately in India many English-Urdu books aren’t available. I pick up a lot of Hindi-English books for her. Some books which I love are Tullika’s Purple Jojo, The Seed, The Rooster and the Sun. I have also picked some Urdu stories for her from Pratham Books as well.
We did try One-person-One-Language, but with husband and me it becomes difficult as we switch between the 2 languages without thinking.
I do play ‘certain’ Bollywood songs for her for around 15-20 minutes every day. Her favorite is ‘Lakdi ki kathi.‘
Thankfully, I realized it before it was too late. So… are you raising a bilingual child?
A story-teller, a Communication Trainer, a Parenting Blogger, a wife to her best friend and mum to the most adorable 2-year-old – Zoe. Falak Randerian, plays many roles, her favorite Being Zoe’s Mom. She runs story telling & communication workshop for kids My Little Chatterbox. You can read her personal blog Being Zoe’s Mom and her parenting website which she runs along with her elder sister www.momsters.in .