Tired with the old prompt I am writing my own story.
My home country is an amalgam of languages. There are four provinces, and each has its own dialect—- Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi, and Pushto. Then there are more languages — Saraiki, Hindko, Gujrati, Hydrabadi, Kohistani, and three versions of Pushto. The unifying language in the country is the national language Urdu. Then there is English which is a kind of world language, is also spoken; not on street level, but in schools, and colleges which are English medium.
At home my (late) husband R, and I used to speak Pushto. Both of us were Pathans from the North Western Region. Our first born, our son was used to Pushto.
A problem occurred when he started playing outside with the other children. He couldn’t talk in Urdu. The children shunned him. The first time he came inside in tears, “nobody wants to play with me”.
To remedy the situation I started with Urdu. Children are quick, and in no time he picked up easily. He adjusted with the other children happily.
We never thought two languages at home would create a problem, and that’s what happened. Our daughter who is two years younger than her brother wasn’t saying a word even. She was two, and half years by then, and wouldn’t speak. We were scared that she might be mute.
We never realized that she was having difficulty in speaking because of us. Our little daughter was confused. R and I talked in Pushto. With our son we spoke Urdu, and with her we continued in Pushto. After getting over my initial worrying I started speaking Urdu with her.
Within a week, or two she was speaking words, then sentences —a chatterbox was born. She speaks very fast — the words tumble down in a hurry to be let out. My husband was forever telling her to slow down.
The children grew up, and a new problem surfaced. Their grandma (father’s mother, mine wasn’t alive) was annoyed as to why the children couldn’t speak Pushto. That was the only language she understood.
We tried to bribe the children with money to learn to speak their mother tongue, but they wouldn’t.
Actually they tried at first, but R would mimic their mistakes, and make fun of their attempts. This put them off, and they refused altogether. No amount of cajoling by me soothed their ruffled feathers.
They know Pushto now, and make good use of it in places where they want to communicate privately.
Take That, Rosetta!
If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?