21st February is International Mother Language Day and our blog is hosting a 2 day celebration of languages. A series of blog posts by people from different walks of life – sharing their thoughts on languages, memories and more. International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
(This post was sent by Kanchan Bannerjee. Kanchan Bannerjee is a Trustee of Pratham Books. She is a sociologist and is trained in communications and teaching children with learning disabilities. She is also the Manging Trustee of Akshara Foundation. She has been associated with the planning, design and execution of several of Akshara Foundation’s programmes since 2000. Under a UNICEF programme, she has created graded readers for entry level classes in Kannada and Hindi for Karnataka and Chattisgarh State Government syllabi. She writes books for early readers, especially bilinguals, designed to introduce a second language in a graphic and friendly manner. )
It puzzled me when some people say, “I used to be able to speak in such-and-such language, but now I have forgotten it”. How can one forget a language one has learnt, I wonder. Perhaps this is possible if the immersion at the time of learning has not been effortless and stress-free.
So I try to grab every opportunity to speak the languages I know – when I am in appropriate company, rather than speak in English which is now the ‘universal’ language – no questions asked.
There are some quaint words in Konkani, which are increasingly being replaced by English words in conversation. (Konkani does not have a script of its own – it has adopted either the Devanagari or the Roman script). I like the way some of these words roll off the tongue. For example “kuler” meaning ‘spoon’ is being almost entirely replaced by the English word. Or the word “alli” which means that ‘there is less salt in the food’. And I try to find the etymology of the word, the sister language that it might have come from into Konkani. and sometimes I find no answers.
I am trying to expose my almost-two-year old grand-daughter who lives in the USA to Konkani every time we have a Facetime session, which is twice or thrice a week. She is always flitting around, but I am sure my words reach her ears.
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