Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The language advantage

I think in one language, talk very well in one, can give bad words best in another. It works very well for me. Over time however, this tendency to think in one language and talk in another has been made out to be the bane of the lack of fluency in English for Indians by many people. This concept having been ingrained in the parents and fluency in English being a premium, parents (yes, I mean the urban affluent) often train their children in just one language, which is English. The children become fluent in English, but they lose touch with their native language. This robs them of some of the advantages of knowing one more language and also kills the regional language bit by bit (here). While in the formative years, there is a tendency to teach English to the children, there is a premium on learning foreign languages like French, German or Spanish later on in life. We, are very happy learning these languages (such a beautiful language!) rather than learn Kannada while living in Karnataka or Marathi while living in Maharashtra. (Oh!! its such a problem communicating, you can hear them cry)

Children, I have seen, with my limited experience pick up whatever is thrown at them. I have seen kids speak 3 languages by age 3 or so just by exposure to those languages and without any loss of fluency in any of the languages.

I know 5 languages well and 2 reasonably well and it is a great advantage (to get things done, to connect etc.) to know these languages. It would be an untold loss to me if I could have spoken just one language. Here's a related post by Abi on when should kids start learning learn English? and another one here by Jayesh.

1 comment:

Jayesh said...


Its such a coincidence that I have written on similar lines on my blog a few days back. Here is the post http://booletpoint.blogspot.com/2005/06/talking-walking-and-swearing-english.html