Marathi: a mother tongue and foreign language

When families immigrate to foreign countries, they try hard to raise their children with ties to their homeland. They make sure to celebrate cultures and festivals, and converse at home in their mother tongue.

But as children grow, the language is the first to be abandoned. It becomes too much of a task to remind them to respond in Marathi, and English just becomes easier for everyone. Over time, they start to forget and life carries on.

Then there comes a point when, as a teenager or adult, a bit of regret starts to set in. You find yourself wishing you could take part in conversations, without asking everyone to switch to English. With a language barrier, you feel a certain disconnect with your own culture, but it feels like it’s too late. Yes, everyone in your family speaks English too, but it’s really not the same.

A relationship with an abandoned mother tongue is somewhat complicated. It feels familiar, but foreign at the same time. All these expectations build up considering you’ve been around it all your life, and it’s frustrating to find yourself struggling to string together simple sentences.

It may be difficult at first to wrap your tongue around each syllable as you try to talk, but the years of subconscious listening means that you have a definitive upper hand. Prolonged exposure often makes for a good base, letting you retain whatever you once knew. 

For some, the language may come flooding back to you all of a sudden. For others, it takes a little more effort and practice to be able to hold conversations. But in the end, feeling that new-found connection to your heritage and family will make all of it seem worthwhile.