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Jehanara Haider's picture

We speak in Urdu which is the national language of Pakistan in our house, exclusively.  We made a decision when our son was born almost three years ago to keep our native language as relevant to him as we could. It is not easy since he goes to full time day care where English is spoken and the programs on PBS Kids that he watches are in English.

After considerable consistency on our part, the good news is that at almost three, he fully understands Urdu even though he prefers to reply to questions in English. It is ongoing work to gently coax him to reply back in Urdu as well. I realize that this is just the beginning and as his language skills develop even more, it will be harder to be consistent with him in order to continue to encourage him to speak in Urdu with us.  I am heartened to read that now there is more and more research on how toddlers can be bilingual without this impacting their speech development.

I have been able to locate a few books in the libraries of our county which translate English into Urdu with helpful illustrations. We as parents need to request our local libraries to stock up on bilingual books and when there is reasonable demand, they will be more willing to consider the idea.  

The point of my post today is that our native languages are a treasure which we must do our best to hand over to our children and if the process requires effort, patience and consistency so be it. Our children deserve this gift even though they may not realize this at the moment when you refuse to acknowledge a sentence spoken in the “wrong” language. I am sure they will get frustrated, disheartened and even annoyed but remember that the gift of another language will help to broaden their horizons, teach them empathy and enable them to feel connected to their culture and traditions. 

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