Regional languages dying in mixed marriages (fwd)

Don Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Thu Jan 22 18:57:07 UTC 2004

It would seem in principle that the same techniques used by international
bilingual couples to impart the languages of both to their children could be
used by interethnic couples within a country to do the same.  The situation
described in the article is probably widespread in multilingual societies.
In West Africa my impression is that there is not a systematic approach to
teaching languages to the very young before school (rather laissez faire,
with kids picking up language from family, neighbors, friends), except in
isolated(?) cases where parents may insist on speaking French or English
only at home in the belief this will somehow help their children. So in
linguistically mixed marriages it's catch as catch can for the kids'
language education, especially in the cities.

Don Osborn

----- Original Message -----
From: "Phil Cash-Cash" <cashcash at EMAIL.ARIZONA.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2004 6:27 PM
Subject: Regional languages dying in mixed marriages (fwd)

Regional languages dying in mixed marriages

The Times of India

When two mothertongues meet, the result is a third language. In the
bargain, both the regional languages are forgotten.

Sociologists are calling it a linguistic cultural quandary, that may not
be ideal for those keen on a sense of identity and rootedness. But
there seems to be little room for mother-tongues in todayÂ~Rs global

Mixed marriages are breeding children who speak neither the
mother-tongue of the dad or the local lingo of their momÂ~Rs hometown.

Says event manager, Namita Shibad, who has two children aged 15 and 10,
"My father was from Mangalore and my mother from Punjab . So they
mostly stuck to speaking English,which is why I couldnÂ~Rt even gather a
smattering of either languages. There is a regret, in the sense that
there is no Â~QnativeÂ~R element to look up to. At the same time, it isnÂ~Rt
so bad to shed regionality and adopt a very global approach towards
life," she reasons.

Sociologist Sujata Patel, however, warns, "The urban upper-class
populace faces this threat most of all. It is very important for
children to know a regional language.

Primarily, because a mothertongue brings along with it an entire
cultural ethos. Any kind of diversity and richness only comes when a
regional language is encouraged.

To be able to attain a certain level of stability, it is important that
a special effort is made towards retaining a regional essence," she

That essence is a fast disappearing flavour with each passing generation
in families where the parents are from different regions.

Jyotsna and Vighnesh Shahane are another couple who admit that their
five-year-old son Ishaan cannot speak either Marathi or Kannada.

"ThereÂ~Rs little we can do about it. My husband is constantly travelling,
so he gets very little time with Ishaan.

IÂ~Rm am not too good with my Kannada, so I prefer sticking to English.
The only time my son really listens to Marathi is when his grandparents
come over," says Jyotsna.

Many parents feel that the challenge is greater when there is no support
system, in terms of extended family or grand-parents.

Ashish and Shweta Khandelwal, are very keen that their kids speak both
mothertongues. Says Ashish, "My elder daughter Vanshika can speak
Marwari quite well.

But it took some effort. My wife Shweta is from the North and doesnÂ~Rt
speak Marwari at all. So it was primarily left to me to teach her the

>From the beginning, I was very clear that I didnÂ~Rt want her talking only
in English. That attitude will make regional languages completely fade
away," he warns.

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