‘Mother tongue, once lost, is irrecoverable’ - Eastern Mirror
Wednesday, February 08, 2023

‘Mother tongue, once lost, is irrecoverable’

By Purnungba Longkumer Updated: Feb 21, 2021 1:31 am

Our Reporter
Dimapur, Feb. 20 (EMN): Amid growing concern among the scholars as well as the general public over the mother tongue being dwarfed by foreign languages that are widely used in the corporate world, experts feel that indigenous languages spoken by various communities in Nagaland too could be cannibalised by the popular ones if concerted efforts are not taken to preserve them.

As the world observes International Mother Language Day today, February 21, on the theme “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”, some experts shared Eastern Mirror about the importance of preserving one’s mother tongue.

Metuo Liezietsu, assistant professor of department of Tenyidie, Nagaland University, Meriema Campus, said that transition is happening very fast in Naga society and western education has made such a profound influence that the young generation is beginning to neglect their own mother tongue.

Despite English being widely spoken in the state, he said, ‘culturally one cannot express one’s feeling fully’ using the language, but it is possible through one’s own dialect. ‘Therefore it is high time to promote mother tongue,’ he added.

Liezietsu said that Nagaland being a very diverse state with many cultures and dialects,  it is important to preserve one’s mother tongue “as it is the root of our culture and without it, one’s identify is lost”.

‘Preserving language is preserving culture as they are interrelated,’ he said.

He said that today’s generation are so fluent in English as they are taught using the language from a young age. ‘They prefer to speak in English instead of their own mother tongue and it is not only due to western education but also the responsibility of parents,’ he pointed out.

Lamenting that many young people of this generation don’t understand the simplest of word in their own dialects, he said ‘language cannot be forcefully taught but parents have to play an important role in preserving their own dialect as preserving of language begins at home’.

Liezietsu is of the opinion that heritage study should be more refined so that children will have the drive to learn.

K Temjen Jamir, Editor of Tir Yimyim, an Ao vernacular daily, said that mother language is like a book of moral law that imparts and passes from generation to generation. It’s a language that gives us a distinct socio-cultural identity.

‘Mother language defines our roots and maintains connection amongst the members of a particular language group,’ he maintained.

Jamir said that many languages in the world are on the verge of extinction but Naga languages have not reached that alarming stage as of now.

He added that it is the right time to encourage the native speakers to speak their mother tongue amongst the same linguistic groups to promote, preserve and popularise it.

No matter how fluent one is in other languages, one is not complete without knowing one’s mother language, he maintained.

“We can recover if we lost other material resources but not the mother language; once we lost it, it is irrecoverable; even God may not give us back the language we abandon thoughtlessly,” he said.

The editor opined that in order to promote and preserve native language, parents must insist their children to speak only in mother language with them as children can easily learn other languages like English and Hindi or for that matter, Nagamese, through mass media even before they start schooling. “But they don’t have place to learn mother language except their own home,” he added.

He advocates celebrating Hornbill Festival separately by respective communities, saying that combined celebration ‘limits the scope and space of using mother languages in Nagaland’ and termed it as a modern threat to progressive development of mother language.

Jamir also encouraged children and youths to participate in various mother language promotional activities, saying that they may continue to use English as their common language but should “understand that speaking English doesn’t make us English men and women as Nagas and will remain Nagas”.

By Purnungba Longkumer Updated: Feb 21, 2021 1:31:12 am