Friday, June 8, 2007

Is it important for your child to speak english?

I've no negatives against children speaking English but its funny when parents only speak to their children in English and want their children to speak back only in English too. If the child is a little older I would have had no issues with that. You are just adding another language in their schedule. But at the age of 3 or 2 or even less, is it the right thing to do? Is our language that bad? Is it shameful to speak in Hindi or in any other dialect?

I also speak to my son in English and quite often. But its only now when I feel his Hindi vocabulary is more than enough at the age he is in(3 yrs.). So now we are starting to focus on his learning words for the same things etc in English too. But that doesn't mean talking in Hindi is a no-no.

The other day when I had some guests over at our son's b'day, one of my friends wife was talking to her son, who was 2.5 year old, only in English and asked him to say bye to us by calling our names! I was astounded. I didn't say anything then since they were our guests and it wasn't anything positive that I wanted to say.

Maybe some of you will not agree with my thoughts. However, I feel when we call our elders by uncle or aunt or anything but their names, we do so to give them respect. And I don't see anything wrong in it. Do you? We don't even call the non-relatives who are elder to us by their names or even the strangers.

My mother never taught us to call even the house helpers/aides by their names. We were always asked to refer to them as bhaiyya or didi. I also have the same rules for my son. He is not allowed to call my maid and cook by their names. He also has to refer to them as didi. And I also talk to them saying "aap". They are also human beings and deserve their share of respect.

I've seen a lot of small children talking to the house helpers in such a rude, disrespectful tone and their parents don't say anything to them. I really wonder at the kind of values that are being passed on to the children.


  1. You have addressed two different issues here, 1. Speaking in English,2. Respect for elders.

    Regarding the second one , I completely agree, we should respect all human beings and teach our kids the same. We should teach them to respect elders and I don't think its cool to call our uncles/aunts by their names.
    Your friend may realize his/her mistake when their son will call them by their names.We should be accepting good things from all the cultures around the world and we have to decide what are those good things. If they decide so , upto them.

    About the first, speaking in English to kids is not a sign that you dislike your own language.In India , Engish is a neccessity and lets face it.When you go for admission for your kid , you will realize how much they need to talk in English at the age of three.
    That vocabulary and confidence cannot be built in a day. I being in Bangalore , for my son , English is bare minimum need , coz the ppl here do not understand Hindi.So either I teach him Kannada(which I dont understand) or English , before he even goes to a playschool.
    He should know certain words in English to communicate his bare minimum needs.But yes , I do agree that it should not be the only language to communicate with your kid. We have to make sure that he learns his mother tongue too. And he will no doubt learn that , coz thats the language which is used most often at home.

  2. Swati, the basis of your need for ensuring your child learns English is because you stay in a non-Hindi speaking state.

    I agree for school admissions, one does need some basic knowledge of words in English. Please note the words 'BASIC KNOWLEDGE' and for that purpose only I talk to my son in English. But not ALWAYS. I've been teaching words in english and even communicating with him in English since he was 6 months. He knew what the sentence "Pick it up!" meant when he was just 7 months. And at the same time he knew what the meaning of "Usko uthao" was.

    Lately I had been seeing so many parents talking to their children ONLY in English and that was the basis for my post. And from their attitude you can easily make out whether its for learning purposes or otherwise. This 'otherwise' kind of irks me.

  3. hi nm (i have no clue who you are!)

    just happened to see your blog through your profile when you left a comment on my blog! and was enjoying reading your postings.

    my kids speak only in english. and this has to do with the fact that my wife (niru) and i speak in english. and this is because she'a a tam and i am a mallu. and this is compounded by the fact that we do not have either set of grand-parents staying with us.

    they are managing to learn hindi through school and interactions with other people. they will also learn marathi in the same fashion. but we are not sure about their mother/father tongues. and this does bother us.

    we have recently been trying to get them to speak in tam or mallu but with not much success. we are planning to request our parents to speak to them only in their mother tongues so that they will slowly start picking up the languages.

    and about the second aspect - respect for elders. there's absolutely no two ways about that. these are some of the basic value systems i think our children should know very clearly. no new-fangled ideas for us here :-)


  4. Guru : Like Swati, your case is different too from the perspective I wrote my post about. My post revolved around people who think too highly of English and too lowly of Hindi. Its a status symbol for them if they and their 2 year old child speak in english. I've qualms about those people and not about people in yoru situation.

    Knowing your situation, I know you don't have much of a choice. This is the best posible option so that you don't confuse your children. They might end up mixing up two languages while speaking which is certainly not a great idea.

    And BTW, I've NO CLUE who you are either. Its a blog world you know. One links to the other and I just happened to visit your blog through the series of links on series of blogs. So I don't even remember from which blog I landed on yours :D But I do hope you didn't mind me reading and commenting on it.