Home is where the mother tongue takes root

Home is where the mother tongue takes root

Having seen hard times, I promised myself as a young boy that I would overcome that. Education motivated me in the early part of my career and now it is part of my business.

When we first started out in early childhood education, it was launched on an unwavering belief that the foundation years were the most important period in a child's education. Language development and speech are formed during the first three years of a child's life.

Language has always intrigued me. It inspired me, a Tamil, to learn Hindi as a young man. Bilingualism defines a Singaporean and this is an attribute that we have to be proud of.

Most Singaporeans speak English and their mother tongue. This foresightedness of our founding fathers is one that we have to continue to save for the future generations, failing which we will lose our community identity, multicultural thread and multilingual capabilities.

In culturally-diverse Singapore, Tamil has been given heightened importance. There are many in the Tamil community who love the language - both young and old.

With help from community leaders, schools and with the government's support and endorsement, Tamil community organisations such as the Tamil Language Learning and Promotion Committee and the Tamil Language Council work for the growth of the language.

April saw a host of variety shows, inter-school debates and cultural programmes across the island in Tamil. These programmes brought a lot of people together.

Understanding and rekindling the splendour of the Tamil language provides the younger generation an avenue to make sense of their place in a cosmopolitan country that has English as its lingua franca.

Through community efforts, youths begin to understand their roots and strengthen community and family bonds.

Fostering appreciation for language starts at home. In their early years, children are guided, nurtured and shaped through the identity, values, experiences and native language of their parents.

Hence young minds who are great imitators emulate everything in their immediate environment and that includes oral communication.

What they hear and see at a young age are likely the values and characteristics they will display when they are older.

I was educated in a missionary school where Tamil was not taught but due to the early influences at home, I had a passion to learn Tamil and hence asked for special permission to learn the language at another school.

The qualities I learnt at home proved to me that your mother tongue can become the primary influence of culture and societal norms.

For Tamil culture and language to flourish it is important that Tamil be spoken at home by future generations.

By encouraging bilingualism and hence promoting the Tamil language, we are in fact, encouraging children towards success in their future.

In our globalised world, being bilingual is seen as an asset and puts your children ahead of their competitors.

Parents should create an environment at home to foster the growth of the language. For any subject, teaching can be made fun through reading interactive Tamil books, watching select Tamil programmes, listening to Tamil songs or even teaching little ones Tamil nursery rhymes which are readily available online as free downloads.

The Government's efforts to encourage individual communities to support and promote linguistic diversity should be heeded. For this cause, the demand for stronger language education and innovative learning methodologies will provide the push that the younger generation needs towards picking up their mother tongue.

tabla@sph.com.sg

Dr T. Chandroo is the Chairman/CEO of Modern Montessori International Group


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