Mother tongue

20140210_175600Whenever I fill out any forms for my son, they ask about his mother tongue. I write Urdu in that but what’s funny is that he doesn’t know it at all except to say Yes, No and Goodbye.

When we came to Dubai my son was not even a year old. Everyone told me that he wouldn’t get admission in any school until he could speak English fluently. So I made sure that I spoke to him in English all the time. I thought he would learn his mother tongue Urdu along the way. But that didn’t happen.  Now at 4, he speaks English beyond his years and according to his teacher his vocabulary is outstanding for his age. But if you talk to him in Urdu he’ll just stare blankly at you.

I have realized my mistake and am trying to rectify it. I have a tutor who comes in to teach him the Quran and speaks to him in Urdu. We haven’t made much headway yet but hopefully we’ll get there. He doesn’t like the fact that he has to study just after coming back from school and half way through the lesson he tells his teacher “Khudahafiz” meaning Goodbye!

We are planning to visit our home country in April and I’m worried that he won’t be able to speak to most of the people there who speak only Urdu. Imagine their disappointment when they will be meeting him after more than 3 years and won’t even get to talk to him. And they’ll really be missing out because his stories are wonderful to hear.

P.S. I actually got my son to pose with his tongue sticking out so I could have a photo for my post. He didn’t like being interrupted while he was busy at play. But after a lot of coercing I finally got my photo. He is a good sport!

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21 thoughts on “Mother tongue

  1. We sometimes misunderstand the ability of children,and expose them to languages sparingly. You’d be surprised how much they can learn in a very short time. I grew up in a place where Urdu was spoken by kids in my neighborhood. My siblings and I had no trouble speaking it. My father told us we can learn any language,he didn’t have any problem with it. There was one condition as soon as we stepped in the house we must speak Bengali which happens to be my mother tongue.We went to a school where the medium of instruction was English. We were not allowed to speak any other language besides English. We grew up learning all three fluently.
    I’m sure your son will surprise you when you go home.

  2. I’m sure given more exposure to the language he will pick up urdu more, kids have an interesting way of adapting to the environment separately in different situations 🙂

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  7. My two children were born in Austria. For the first 4/5 years of their lives they just spoke German but could understand English. When we came back to New Zealand to live after a particularly nasty divorce they both made conscious decisions even at that age not to speak German. Within 6 months they were both fluent in English. Now 13 years later they can’t speak much German at all. If anything their father had to learn English to be able to communicate with them. I tried to keep their German up with videos but they didn’t want to watch them. I think they both regret it now. 🙂

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    • Dear Mel,
      Congratulations! And thank you for thinking of me. I’m truly honored. However I regret to inform you that since I already have this award I cannot accept your nomination.
      All the best,
      Zainab

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