Reigniting your Mother Tongue

British Bindi’s Kiran’s experience –

The moment I realised I had lost my mother tongue was like a punch in the gut (sounds dramatic, but it was a frustratingly sinking feeling). Growing up in a bilingual household, I had always taken it for granted that I could switch between English and Punjabi so easily. But as I grew up, I began to lose my ability to express myself in Punjabi. I felt a deep sense of loss and sadness, as if a part of my identity was slipping away.

Our South Asian languages are such beautiful and unique languages, and for those of us who have grown up speaking them, it can brings us a great sense of pride and connection to one’s identity. Unfortunately, for many of us living in the UK, it can be difficult to continue speaking them due to a lack of people around us who are able to understand it. And truthfully, in my personal experience of losing confidence speaking Punjabi, it almost became increasingly embarrassing to try and sometimes met with sniggers or disappointment from others. As a result, I started to lose my confidence further in speaking the language, which I’m sure there are also many people who have experienced something along those lines too.

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However, there is light at the end of the tunnel! There’s some ways that have been helping me regain my confidence in speaking Punjabi, and I’m hoping they might be able to help someone who might be feeling the same, even if you don’t have anyone around you who can understand it. Here are 7 ideas:

1. Listen to Punjabi music, radio and podcasts – immerse yourself in the language and you’ll soon find your confidence growing.

2. Join a Punjabi speaking group – there are plenty of groups available online and even in some local areas, so don’t be afraid to reach out and join one.

3. Take a Punjabi language course – even if you’re not able to take a course in person, there are plenty of online resources available to help you brush up on your language skills.

4. Read Punjabi books or watch Punjabi films – reading and watching films in your mother tongue can be a great way to boost your confidence.

Qismat (2018) – Netflix and other streaming platforms allows us to access thousands of films in different languages. This is one of my favourite punjabi films, I felt it was a good boost for language learning and pair with an activity that I enjoy (love a good movie night!).

5. Talk to yourself in Punjabi – even if you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can still practice and build your confidence by speaking to yourself in Punjabi.

6. Celebrate the little successes. Every time you learn a new word or phrase, give yourself the recognition you deserve.

7. Don’t compare yourself.

8. See if there’s any apps available to help, you might be able to get even a cheeky 10 minutes practice on a commute. Duolingo is a great app and has a few languages. There’s also Fluently, which we came across a few years ago which is a great building block for Punjabi.

We understand just how difficult it can be to lose your confidence in speaking your mother tongue (I’m still pretty much there), but hoping these 5 tips should help you to regain it soon and build small steps of confidence. Keep your head up and don’t forget the importance of speaking a language that’s part of your ancestral history – it’s a beautiful part of your identity and you should be proud of it, even if you don’t know it well!


An Award-Nominated blog which discusses what it's like to be a contemporary British Asian Woman. ‍

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