The Importance of Mother Tongue (by Jaspal Minhas)





books-1163695_1280Most often our beliefs and perceptions are shaped with what we hear from other people; and storytelling plays an integral part in shaping our beliefs and perceptions about other people and their cultures. Single story tends to make us have a one sided perception about others unlike multiple stories. A single story only explores a single part of the subject that the story teller is talking about hence carries one single perception about it. It becomes even worse when that perception is negative. It is dangerous when an individual allows only one piece of a story to act in place of an entire puzzle. Adichie is a renowned writer who clearly focuses on the consequences of single storytelling in her speech, and emphasizes the need for a multifaceted story telling. One of the major challenges we face as parents living away from home country is giving our kids access to the rich cultural heritage of our country. This would not be possible if we, as parents, don’t teach our children their mother tongue. There are so many things they won’t learn about their culture and values. I have seen so many cases where children who neglect their mother tongue can often suffer from problems of identity loss or alienation from their parents, and from their grandparents or other family members in their home country. While many of us parents try our level best to teach our traditions and heritage in our children, others do not think that doing so is necessary. Indeed, single storytelling can take a toll on our beliefs, and for that case I’m driven to change the perception about my community theme and its importance based on Adichie’s speech because not knowing their mother tongue leaves our children with a single story about their culture and heritage. After all, language is the key to our culture and our roots and it opens the door for them to explore multiple stories associated with their culture.

Punjabi language is an important language in my community because it is native to the Indian society; hence people can identify with it. I am motivated to emphasize the importance of Punjabi language, so that it won’t be eroded in face of the use of English language on our stay in America. Punjabi language is one of the core native languages of India that embodies most of the Indian culture; and this gives me a reason to impart my kids with the same language. Punjabi language is what identifies us as Indians, and it not only serves the purpose of communication, writing and reading but it’s also a reflection of our culture, religion and family identity.

When I was growing up in India, might have been in grade school at that time when my cousins from Stratford, England visited us. I was literally crossing days on my tiny calendar at the back of my notebook and really looking forward to finally meeting them for the very first time. I was full of curiosity and had so many questions for them and wanted to talk about myself as well. After the initial greetings and hugs at the airport, I came to realize that none of my cousins spoke Punjabi, our mother tongue. They only spoke English and I couldn’t speak English at that time, neither could my parents. So there was this language barrier between our families. It’s not that we didn’t talk to each other at all but we couldn’t hold any long and interesting conversations because of our language limitations. Fast forward 30 years, and now I have my own kids growing up in US, long ways from India. I don’t want them to have the same experiences with their cousins when they visit India. Many of the Sikh families abroad, like my cousins from England, don’t even speak Punjabi at home with their kids. So I can’t emphasize it enough that my kids learn to read, write and communicate in Punjabi language so that they can interconnect with young and elderly family members back home who don’t speak English. Therefore, teaching Punjabi language is a cultural way to promote Indian culture in a positive way to the upcoming generation and the outside world.

I believe teaching Punjabi is one way of avoiding single storytelling that resonates well with Adichie assertions. Teaching Punjabi will offer a multifaceted way of telling stories by emphasizing the importance of learning Punjabi language despite the frequent use of English language with my kids in America. By adopting Adichie’s talk I am embracing Punjabi language as way of telling many stories about India because they matter and will definitely make a difference in their lives; that will make great strides in promoting our Indian culture in a positive manner. Nonetheless, our beliefs and perceptions, especially those of my kids will be shaped by how well am able to avoid single storytelling by adopting a broad array of stories that will promote a positive perception of our Indian culture through the use of Punjabi language.


Work Cited

The danger of a single story, 2009.

Why Parents Should Speak to Their Children in their Mother Tongue, 2015.


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