It was all too common being laughed at when I had mispronounced a Punjabi word or getting my grammar jumbled up. It wasn’t just a snigger it was a humiliating roar from everyone in the room.
Enough to put anyone off trying. So I did. Tired of being humiliated, tired of being laughed at, yet I wasn’t even brought up speaking it, so how could I learn myself? Nowadays there seem to be more ways, but 20 years ago it was very different. I was sent to Punjabi classes on a Saturday, which probably like everyone else wasn’t really fit for purpose. More for the parents to get rid of the children for a few hours. However, miraculously I did learn how to read and write. But once you learn an alphabet I suppose anyone can, but I didn’t actually know what I was reading in Punjabi. There are still times I have no clue what I’m saying….weird right?!
So as I get older, the elders are becoming less, I start to get really sad that I struggle to talk to my grandmother. I can’t ask her about her upbringing in India or what her own mother was like. I want to know about her history and how she came over to the U.K. in her own words, in her own colours of memories. I want to know the naughty things she got up to as a child, how she was told she was getting married or how much she loved my grandfather.
I want to tell my own daughter her heritage, but I can’t.
I’ve noticed there seems to be a generation that chose not to bring their children up speaking a second language. I don’t know why? Was it laziness, did they think their child wouldn’t need it….did they let the next generation down? Maybe. Even the elder grandparents speak in a heavy Punjabi accent or even broken English to their grandchildren….why?!!
However, that’s where we are. So there is a generation that can only speak English. So naturally, you’ll identify yourself to be more English. Learn English values, beliefs and before you know it, that generation will have children which again will only speak English.
How sad. When my daughter asks about her great grandfather or great grandmother I’m not going to be able to answer. I’m going to have to look at her and say “I don’t know as I couldn’t speak Punjabi to ask them” yes maybe someone could translate but, in not such a long future I’ll be an elder, (I hope) I’ll be a grandmother and there will be part of my families heritage that will go unsaid, unheard and forgotten.
I feel terribly let down by not being taught a language that my mother knew fluently. Most recently another relative stated she felt quite ashamed that she didn’t teach her children Punjabi.
But to move forward I have to take responsibility in trying my best to teach my daughter what I know and getting her some tuition before it’s too late..
But I’m worried it already is….
Guest blogger – Sharan from Too British Too Be Asian
One thought on “Are we losing our culture by not knowing our mother tongue?”
This is a great article and I think a lot of us in the diaspora can relate to it. There’s a song called Mother tongue – LFRESH the lion that completely sums up this too 🙏🏼