Last time I spoke to my mother, she extolled the virtues of my nephew..and the most important of these virtues was the fact that he could say thakkalippazham for tomato. Where as my children will look at you and say “say what?” as if you spoke Latin if they heard someone say Thakkalippazham..they wouldn’t even know it is a Malayalam word.
I always get a lot of criticism for not teaching my children their mother tongue, not just from my own mother, but also from every other Indian I meet. It is like I committed a huge crime.
Years ago, I read somewhere that the language you dream your dreams is the language you are most proficient in. For me, I wanted my children to dream in English, not any other language. Their future depend on their ability to converse and write in English.
So what if my children do not speak Malayalam? What are they going to lose? Their cultural heritage? Learning Malayalam was not going to give them a head start in life, neither would it give them any monetary benefits. There is a unit cost to every activity in life. I was not going to invest my time, energy and money to teach my children a language that would not give them any benefit. The only benefit I could see was that my kids could speak to their cousins in Kerala in Malayalam. And since most of their cousins speak English, there was no real return of the investment (my time and money)
By making sure that my kids have a very good grasp of English also made it possible for them to get good grades. Now, that I consider a good ROI. As I wrote before, Yaya wrote her IB final English exam without reading the required books. She got a 7 for HL English. She could do it because she really has a good grasp of the language and can wing it even If she didn’t read the book.
I believe every child should learn a second language in High school. I know this sounds contradictory. Instead of confusing my kids with two languages in their childhood, I gave them a head start in English and then got them to learn the second language by sending them to complete immersion classes. As I mentioned early, I am only willing to invest my time and money in to something that gives a good ROI. There are 4 languages I was interested in teaching my kids that I considered a good investment. French, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese. Since my kids were keen to study in US, I felt it is better to teach them Spanish. So I enrolled both my daughters for Spanish Immersion, in a school that is really far from my home. The school near my home offered German Immersion and I didn’t think unless my kids want to live in Germany or perhaps Switzerland or Luxembourg there was no real need to learn German. My son is terrible in languages, but is still learning Spanish as a second language, because he knows it will help him in the long run. He is going to Peru in a few months time for student exchange, so he can improve his Spanish.
No, my kids don’t understand what is Thakkalippazham.. My oldest child has already got admission to few of the top Unis.. and for me that is all that matters..
Note: There is plenty of research evidence that suggest that kids learn languages at younger age. As I studied in Malayalam medium till 10th and struggled learning English in Pre degree, I wanted to prevent my kids from going through what I went through. So I chose English as the only language we spoke at home.