I had a few other posts in the queue but this one comes in advance as there are a number of book festivals coming up in the kongu region of Tamilnadu.
I have a great love for books. But a new perspective arose after attending, The Conference on Education at Vidhya Vanam, Anaikatti in May 2016.
Following are the highlights of the speech given by Dr Joga Singh – Professor in Linguistics, Punjabi University, Patiala. He strongly insisted the power of mother tongue
* Mother tongue is the language of mind, heart and soul.
* One’s expression of feelings and emotions are always in Mother’s tongue because it brings the direct connection between heart, brain and tongue.
* Mother tongue is one’s identity.
* Children living in multicultural societies who are unaware of their culture, language and ethnicity, loose confidence in their identity.
* Children, when familiarised with the nuances of one’s mother tongue on how to learn and use it, enables them to learn and appreciate other languages quickly and clearly.
* The child has to be taught everything in his mother tongue. The textbooks/books can be in any language but teaching, discussion and dialogue should be in his mother tongue.
* The concept is more important than the jargon. A child understands and relates the concept better when taught in the mother tongue.
* He described monolinguals as handicapped.
* The usage of English is diminishing worldwide, day by day. More on this.
* One should learn as many languages as possible.
* A child can learn as many as 3 languages to a native-like fluency, even at a young age, when thorough with his mother tongue.
* A new language is a gateway to more awareness of the world around us. You get to become more open-minded and respectful of other cultures, beliefs and people.
* Parents should speak in the medium of education at home, to ease the children at school is an absurd myth.
One of the audience’s question to Dr Joga : ‘In the technologically advanced world of translators, virtual reality systems etc., why should one learn many languages? ‘More than knowing a language one should be humane to converse. There is a difference between talking to a machine and a man. Body Language plays a vital role’, he replied.
I was just out of the 2-day conference when I received a call from my cousin sister about the Chennai book fair the following week. There are lot of circumstances in my life that has made me believe my Dad’s words:
‘Whenever there is an intense search, there is always an answer’.
Though I learned my mother tongue(Tamil) as the second language in school. I hardly read any books in Tamil other than textbooks. Knowingly or unknowingly I sang a lot of Tamil songs as lullaby, bath song, clean up song and play song for Thanvi. She started to speak from 8 months of birth. On recollecting this incident I understood the facts of Dr Joga – ‘Mother tongue from the Mother’s voice is the most powerful learning’.
Usually, I do a lot a research before going to any place. But being ignorant also has helped me many a time.
‘Only when the cup is empty, it can hold more’.
My experiences at the book fair:
* Since I knew nothing about Tamil books, I decided to spend the whole day there browsing through each stall patiently. There were nearly hundred stalls.
* I haven’t seen a galore of Tamil books anywhere else. This the right place to be, to pick regional books.
* More than the books I appreciated the people who came to the fair. I took the time to talk to a lot of people. Book-lovers is not the only word to describe them. Very well knowledged, earthy and warm people. They spoke about current affairs, education, cinema, environment, sustainability, nature, spirituality, patriotism, life and so on.
* Almost all the stall keepers are highly knowledgable about their books. They thoroughly explained on the contents of each book, author and other books in the same field of interest. This gave a reassurance of the fact that I always believe, ‘Through the internet, you only search for an information, you already partially aware off. But when you talk to people you get to discover a whole new array of information, facts, experience and perspective’.
* Many shopkeepers not only helped me select the right books but are also in constant touch via social media to update me on books, in my areas of interests.
Thoughts after the fair:
* Since regional books are in the same culture, ethnicity and custom as I am, I could easily relate and feel the pulse.
* It helps in decision making and to understand people around me.
* I saw 80% of the crowd to be men(both young and old- surprisingly more young and middle-aged men), few children and very few old ladies.
I reflected on this percentage and understood this:
1. We blindly believe, textbooks are the only knowledge source and other books are just for entertainment.
2. Kids don’t have time to read other books, we should not burden them. Reading habit should not be forced. It’s love. When we start reading, kids will follow.
‘Be the change that you want to see’.
3. Travel, movies and books play a vital role in understanding and appreciating people around us.
4. Coming to the young ladies – We don’t have time is the persistent statement. There is a statistics saying that ladies spend an average of 3 years of their lifetime in shopping – this clearly shows where we are losing our time. Caring for our mental well-being is highly important for us and our loved ones.
5. We consume a lot of information these days like never before. Whats app messages/videos, Telegram messages, Instagram, Pinterest, newsletters, etc., but has all these helped us learn a new skill? A New language? Have we developed a new habit? Have we learned to love and understand each other more? It’s high time we appreciate books and nurture our mother tongue to bring up better souls and pass on our linguistic heritage.
The exuberant increase in a number of Grandma tale books clearly indicates, there are hardly few children living with grandparents. Let us, at least use these books to impart values and ethics of life which is profoundly missing in today’s textbooks.