A few days back I had taken my little daughter to the neighborhood park. An old man who had come with his two grandsons observed my daughter for a while and then asked me, “How old is your daughter.”
“Two”, I replied.
“She speaks English quite fluently for a 2-yr old.” He remarked.
“That’s because it’s the only language she knows.” I commented. I confess I felt proud at the moment. I’d always wanted my child to learn and adopt the universal language, English like her own. I’d wanted her to think in English instead of a painstaking translation from the mother tongue.
But that simple remark also rattled me. It’s true. My daughter knows only English. It’s because her parents and her teachers, the primary caregivers talk to her only in English. It’s not her fault that there are no grandparents around to talk to her in her mother tongue. Also, a very close friend of mine has a 5-yr old son who speaks faultless English, better than a native. But his only problem is that he replies in English only even when being questioned in Hindi. This is not acceptable for me.
I know my daughter will eventually learn her mother tongue but I am not satisfied with that. I had read somewhere that a small child is multilingual; he/she can learn many languages simultaneously.
My Tamil maid converses enthusiastically with her in Tamil and my little girl seems to understand that. So there’s no reason for her not to learn Hindi now.
So started her Hindi lessons with a vengeance. A few days since and she already knows counting in Hindi till 10. Soon, I will start the Hindi ‘varnamala’. Also, I make conscious efforts to speak a little in Hindi with her and she understands most of it. As for my daughter, she’s been enjoying her spontaneous Hindi lessons. After all learning is fun at her age as there is no pressure.
My goal for now: For her to reply in Hindi when her dadi and nani talk to her. I guess that’s not asking too much.