Mother Tongue First
Zeeshan Rasool Khan and Eram Hamid Khan
The transmission of culture from one generation to other is possible only through the language. For preserving a culture and identity, safeguarding mother language is of utmost importance. History bears witness that people struggled and are struggling for domination of their mother tongue in many of states in India. Having said that, in Kashmir; there was a time when terms like ‘Poen’ and ‘Nabb’ were used in lieu of existing, originally Persian Urdu words, ‘Aab’ and ‘Aasmaan’, meaning water and sky respectively and are no longer heard from any corner. Slowly and steadily we are turning disloyal to our cultural and native language Kashmiri. Despite our ancestors, educationists, scholars of past were committed for protecting it, who always favored putting their ideas, thoughts forth through local language and even translated religious scriptures into Kashmiri but ruefully scenario has changed a lot. We prefer Urdu and English over local language, prioritize schools with “English Medium” tag over others.
Teaching other languages is the need but at the cost of mother tongue has posed a challenge. The present generation is incapable of putting anything on paper in the language they had inherited. The situation has worsened to the extent that speaking Kashmiri symbolizes illiteracy and backwardness for many. People nowadays converse mostly in other languages rather than Kashmiri. In some homes parents stress children to talk in non-native languages; they sometimes react against the child for going native. Even discourse of our religious preachers is largely based on non-native languages so that they will be deemed well-learned.
However, for years now, Government along with several organizations came into motion and is endeavoring to preserve, promote and popularize the mother tongue. Some educationists, religious scholars, and common people are taking pains to keep this language alive. Some institutions confer awards with this motive that is encouraging and awe-inspiring. Many daily newspapers are published in the Kashmiri language in addition to books on diverse issues especially poetry. A positive development that took place is that the youth have started playing the role. Many youths have picked up the pen to gather their opinions in the mother tongue. Some have produced award-winning collections, inspiring others to return back to roots. Education department acting swiftly introduced the Kashmiri language in the school curriculum and declared it compulsory subject at secondary level. Results are good; students have started showing interest again which is emboldening. But lot more has to be done to cope with existing challenges.
Teaching Kashmiri in schools is applaudable. It has caught the attention of students towards this language. However, there is a need for further improvement. In most of our schools’ teachers who have been assigned to teach Kashmiri are from varied academic backgrounds. At some places science teacher teaches Kashmiri, at other an Urdu teacher, consequently, they fail to comply with the requirement of students and the later remain almost untutored. This problem can be solved with ease but demands sincere action. We have no dearth of Kashmiri knowing people. Many youngsters are holding a master degree in Kashmiri but the state of affairs has cast them down. Their qualification has never been valued instead they are mocked by so-called scientists and philosophers of the era. The better strategy is employing them productively. This will not only be a booster for students but will provide an incentive to others to choose Kashmiri as their subject of studies thus furthering its promotion. Other school teachers and administrations need to be concerned about the matter and must not force children to use other languages; rather they must translate what they teach and encourage students to do projects on different themes in their own language. This will bring about more clarity in concepts and eliminate confusions if any.
Similarly, Organizations making efforts for its promotion need to intensify their activities. Besides encouraging Kashmiri-literary people, organizing awareness programs to educate general masses about the importance of native language is also the need of time. Organizing seminars, essay and quiz competitions, debates within schools and colleges on the importance of mother tongue can be constructive. Creation of web pages in the Kashmiri language, devising Kashmiri language keyboard apps for computers and cell phones can also be advantageous. Use of Signboards, advertisement boards, posters and hoardings written in Kashmiri may help in long run. Parents who believe by speaking Kashmiri, their progeny cannot compete with others must know that credible researchers suggest that a child need to attain critical level of mother tongue proficiency that would result into increased success in second language acquisition, i.e. Perfection in “First language” will lead to excellence in acquired languages so there is no question of incompetence. Parents have the crucial role as they are the one, who can carry it (Kashmiri language) on to next generation. They need to realize the significance of mother tongue and make serious efforts for its persistence.
Moreover, the positive and collective approach of all individuals belonging to every section of society is decisive for future of Kashmiri – language. Let’s us all take the initiative to protect our language, the integral part of our culture and identity.