I met Ram after 10 years today in Singapore. We used to work together in Tokyo. The conversation went thus :
‘Saar, is your younger son Bharat Ram studying Hindi at school?’ He studies Tamil as his second language.
‘So, you mean your kid does not know Hindi?’ Yes, he does not know Hindi.
‘Saar, but what will he do when he goes to India?’ He will speak in English.
‘Saar, but Hindi is needed, right ? Employment opportunities..’
I said,’Boss, my son doesn’t plan to work in Delhi as a Hindi Teacher. He doesn’t need to know the language’, trying to cut him short.
‘Saar, but why does he study Tamil ? What is the use?’ he continued.
I was beginning to understand what he was hinting at.
‘So, what do you speak at home?’, I asked him.
‘We converse in English’, he replied. The pride was on his face.
‘So your son knows about Henry David Thoreau’, I asked as a matter of fact.
‘Well, who is this Henry, an English king?’, he asked.
Neither does he know who Thoreau is, nor does he know that Hindi is as alien to a kid as Mandarin is. I tried explaining to him the following :
It doesn’t matter what all your child studies at school as long as the mother tongue is taught at least as the second language. Children cannot think using an alien language, say English. But English is predominantly used everywhere and so most of the schools have English as the medium of instruction. And Singapore excels in that.
However, once the child is proficient in his mother tongue ( Malay, Mandarin, Hindi, what ever ), it is easy for him to acquire any language, be it Indian or foreign. So, please speak to your child in your mother tongue, get him comfortable in that, read him stories and after Primary 5, introduce yet another foreign language as a third language. Hindi could be one of them. He would have no difficulty in learning those additional languages as his basic grammatical constructs, his ability to visualize and express abstract concepts in a proper cogent manner , ability to understand different sentence patterns etc would have developed adequately and hence he would be able to extend those to other languages that he would encounter later in his life.
I am not sure if he got it in full. But his stupidity was all the more transparent when he continued thus : ( to be continued )