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Foreign Language Vs Mother Tongue in Pakistan

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Despite the fact that Urdu is the national dialect of Pakistan, however, English is the dialect which is formally utilized as a part of all private and in addition government authorities. In Pakistan, English language aptitudes are viewed as accommodating for understudies in finding a high-class work. In proficient life, basic language is clearly English. This research is being done to talk that a child ought to be presented to the second language that is English in critical period or not? And which type of schools are suitable for the language proficiency of a child. Furthermore, we also tried to find out that which language should be the medium of education at the regional level. In light of confirmation assembled through questionnaire and meetings with instructors, the examination finds that early English-medium approach seems counterproductive as most understudies exhibit poor English language capacity. In nations like Pakistan where English isn’t the primary language, many guardians and groups trust their kids will get a head-begin in instruction by going ‘straight for English’ and bypassing the home language.

The inspiration driving this is to center towards their financial prudence and enhance the vocation prospects of their more youthful ages. For young students, utilizing the primary language in early instruction prompts a superior comprehension of the content of the educational module and to a more inspirational state of mind towards school. Utilization of the students’ home language in school likewise decreases the burden on instructors, particularly where the educator talks the nearby language well, which is the situation in most of the country schools in multilingual settings. Research has demonstrated that in learning circumstances where both the educator and the student are non-local clients of the language of direction, the instructor battles as much as the students, especially toward the begin of schooling. But when teaching begins in the educators’ and students’ home language, the experience is more natural and friendly for all. Therefore, the educator can be more inventive and creative in planning materials and methodologies, promoting enhanced learning results.

There is a famous saying by Jack Edwards that “What is a nation without a mother tongue?” Mother tongue is the identity of the nation. Only those nations emerge as a prosperous nation in the history who preferred their own language over any other language as the world. It is important for the individual to get fluency in mother tongue before learning any other language because an individual thinks in his mother tongue and then translate his thoughts into any other language.

Many theorists are of the opinion that the mother tongue is the better medium for instructions rather than English or any other language. Max von Sydow said about the importance of mother tongue that “I think English is a fantastic, rich and musical language, but of course your mother tongue is the more important for an actor”. Keeping the importance of mother tongue for an individual as well as nation building the best medium of instruction for the early schooling of an individual is child’s mother tongue. The stronger the children’s mother tongue, the easier it is for them to learn new languages. Children who have a solid foundation in their mother tongue, develop better literacy skills also in other languages that they learn. When parents and other important adults have time to discuss and read in the child’s mother tongue and thus help expand the child’s vocabulary, the child will be better prepared when kindergarten or school starts and can easily learn new languages.

Children’s knowledge and skills transfer over languages. Skills learned in the mother tongue will transfer to the other languages learned in school, as long as all languages are supported. Despite too many advantages of mother tongue as the medium of instruction, the government of Pakistan is failed to establish the mother tongue-based educational policy in the country. Because of too much professional advantages of English language, parents prefer English-medium schools over Urdu-medium schools because English is used more in the professional life of an individual and that is the main reason why English is considered as the key to prosperity and intelligence of an individual is also judged on the scale of its English skill. An individual who is more fluent in English language but has low technical skills is considered more intelligent than the one who is not very good at English but has good technical skills. For the following reasons, parents are more interested in teaching English to their child rather than Urdu or mother tongue.

In our research, we shall highlight the medium of education in Pakistan. But our major concerned is about that what students think about the language-in-education policy of Pakistan and what should be the medium of education in Pakistan, whether it should be English, Urdu or any other regional language. For the building of future language-in-policy, we took the valuable advice of the teachers of various colleges. Keeping in view of the students and teachers of various colleges we will conclude that what should be the medium of education in Pakistan so that we should prosper in the field of education. Following are the major questions of our research that we asked from the students on a social media platform.

Which language do you consider more important in the professional life of an Individual?

Is it better to teach English in the elementary grades?

Study finds that early English-medium appears to be counter-productive as most of the students don’t get a grip in English as well as in Urdu. Do you support this argument?

Linguistic expert supports the idea that best medium for the early schooling of a child is the mother tongue of the child. Do you agree with this argument?

According to you should Punjabi be the medium of instruction in primary schools of Punjab like Sindhi and Pashto are the medium of instruction in the primary schools of respective provinces?

What is the most appropriate age to teach a foreign language to students?

Are you satisfied with the performance of low fees so-called English medium schools?

Which type of schools is best for language proficiency of student?

What should be the medium of education at the regional level?

How many languages should be taught to the students?

Language Policy of Pakistan

Pakistan is a multilingual country with six major and over fifty-nine small languages. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan which is the mother tongue of 7.57 percent of the entire population and the official language of Pakistan is English. Many of the people in rural areas are not even able to understand English but still, the most used language in the offices of Pakistan is English. The most spoken language is Punjabi having 44.15 speakers.

However, the importance of regional languages is always compromised because the languages of the domains of power-government, corporate sector, media, education etc. are English and Urdu. The policy of Pakistan has favored these two languages at the expense of others. It has also resulted in English become a symbol of the upper class, sophistication, and power. The people who speak their regional language let say an individual who is speaking Punjabi is considered illiterate. This is any one of the reasons that parents prefer to teach English to their children as the English are considered as the key to prosperity, power, and success.

The Context and Methodology

The main purpose of our research is to find the answer of our question that whether a child should learn his mother tongue first then exposed to any other language or a child should learn his mother tongue and any other foreign language simultaneously. For this purpose, we conducted our research in 7 low fee schools of Karachi (Haq Foundation School, CSS Grammar School, Aligarh Schooling System, Usman Public School, City Grammar School, AIMS School, IMAM Montessori School) and one Government of Bahawalpur (Govt. Islamia girls school). We created the Google form consisting of some questions regarding the research and ask students of NUST and other universities including NED-UET Karachi, IST, COMSATS and few other renowned universities of Pakistan to fill the form. We also asked from the parents of the students that which type of school they prefer. Our schooling system is divided into four categories Private elite English medium schools, Private non-elite English medium school, low paid English medium school and Government Urdu medium school. According to the survey most of the students are currently studying in the low fees private schools because of their economical fee structure. That is why we conducted our research in the low fees schools and took interview from the faculty of that schools. A total of 4 school principals, participated in the interview and almost 150 students gave their opinion about the medium of education via the Google form.

Students are the pioneer of future and pillars of the nation. You can never hope for the successful country if there are no educated people and policy for better education. That is why it is most important that in which medium they wanted to study. For this purpose, we asked the students of different universities to fill the Google form which consists of some questions regarding our research and this form is filled by the students of many universities including NUST and NED.

When students are asked to give their opinion about the most important language in the professional life of an individual, a vast majority of students opted English because English is the official language of Pakistan and English is used in the corporate and government sectors more than any other language. However, some of the students from Sindh also replied that Sindhi is used more than Urdu and even more than English in the Government offices that is why the Sindhi language also plays a vital role in the professional life of an individual especially when the individual belongs to Sindh. The following graph illustrates the responses of the students.

When we asked the students that which is the most optimum age at which a child should be exposed to English. Most of the students replied that at kindergarten level students should learn Urdu only then at primary level students should be exposed to English and should learn English and Urdu simultaneously.

According to linguistic experts, English-medium education appears to be counter-productive as most of the students do not get a grip in English as well in their mother tongue when we asked from the students that if they agree with this argument we get the mix responses. Some of the students said that it is up to the intelligence of student whether he can handle the two languages at the same time or not, but most of the students support this argument.

According to the research, most of the students of Pakistan are enrolled in low fees English medium school. When we asked the students whether they are satisfied with the performance of these type schools. Students replied that they are so-called English medium school where the teacher even do not know English and English teachers method of teaching language is not up to the mark. They asked the students to memorize the question rather than speaking English.

When we ask the students that which type of schools are best for language proficiency of students. The students from different universities are of the opinion although the private elite English medium schools are expensive the teaching methodology of these type of schools are better than any other schools in Pakistan.

The most important question of our research is that what should be the medium of education for the early schooling of a child. When we asked from the students, most of the students replied in favor of the English and almost same amount of the students replied in favor of Urdu and comparatively low amount of students replied in the favor of the regional language of that language

This is also an important question that how many languages should be taught to a child during his early schooling. The following graph illustrates the responses of the students. When we asked the students that what strategy should be adopted for the language proficiency of the students. Most of the students replied that best strategy for the language proficiency of an individual is that first student should get proficiency in his mother tongue(L1) then should be exposed to other languages(L2) which are also known as Additive Bilingualism”.

The role of the teacher represents a fundamental difference in the Language Futures approach. Whilst the teacher may be an expert linguist with a deep understanding of how languages are learned, and therefore the strategies to be used to support this, in the Language Futures classroom he or she will not be the expert in all or even any of the languages chosen by the students. When we asked school principals that why they do not teach regional language to the students (like Sindhi in Sindh) most of the school principals said that there are no competent teachers available to us who are able to teach the regional language to the students and it is extremely difficult for the schools to find such teachers. When we asked the principals of some private nonelite English medium school about the performance of their school, one of the school principal (IMAM Montessori School) of such school said;

But the reality is totally opposite to this argument. Study finds out that the students of private non- elite English medium schools and low paid English medium school are not good at English as well as in their mother tongues because never learns to speak English or expresses himself in English. The answers he writes in English are copied or memorized from the book. When we asked about that what is the most optimum time at which the schools should start teaching English to the students, principal of CSS Grammar School said that ;

But the principal of Adamjee Government Science College (Dr. Naseem Haider) provided us with a totally opposite answer to the same question;

When we asked that what should be the medium of instructions in the schools. The school principal of Government Islamia College replied that;

The following is a brief account of the opinions of the principals and teachers of different colleges and the rationale given for the choices they make about language policy;

Students can learn mother tongue in their home.

Mother’s tongue is applicable only in family and friend gatherings.

English has more uses in professional life than English and Urdu

Some of the teachers supported the idea that lectures in institutions should be delivered in Urdu because easily understand Urdu.

It is better to teach English during early schooling of the students.

The most suitable medium of education is English.

It is difficult to find the teachers of the regional languages.

It is better to teach English and Urdu to the students.

It is not good to teach many languages to the students because of its lead to linguistic confusion.

Due to extensive increase in demand of English due to its uses in professional life of professionals and academic life of an individual students are mostly inclined towards the English language and of the opinion that students should learn English and Urdu simultaneously, 36% are of the opinion that Urdu should be the medium of education while almost 37% students are of the opinion that English will be better medium of instruction because English is more applicable in practical life. Almost all of the scientific books whether of engineering, medical or social sciences are mostly written in English. That is why most students are in the favor of teaching English from the elementary grades of the student (almost 85% of the students who responded to our google forms). 3 out of 4 principals who participated in the interview are also in favor of teaching English from early stages of schooling but they are not satisfied with the teaching methodology followed by the schools.

Mostly English medium schools are not teaching English in the appropriate way and that is one of the reasons that most of the students from such type of school are not very fluent in English because the main focus of such schools is memorizing the course rather than teaching English to the students. But according to our opinion teaching English and Urdu simultaneously will only create linguistic confusions in the future. Because the student will not be able to get proficiency in either of the ones because it is the proven fact that an individual thinks only in one language. So it will be better that student should get proficiency in one language and later introduce to English or any other language. But teaching Urdu only is not the solution too because most of the syllabus books are not available in Urdu so this will also trouble the school if they are not familiar with English. If we wanted Urdu medium education system in our society then it is necessary that all the books should be translated into Urdu. So in this circumstance teaching, both English and Urdu will be better. However, teaching the methodology of low free private English medium type of schools should be corrected.

Debates and such activities should be held in the school from the early classes in which students should able to speak as much as possible because most of the students use mother language in homes and in their daily routines and speaking English is not in their practice. This is one of the reasons that most of the students are not very fluent in English. But I am not in the favor of teaching regional language such as Sindhi, Balochi etc because this will create ethnic divisions in the society because it will be very difficult to manage this for any type of school. Students belonging to different ethnicity wanted to learn its language and not the other. That is why it is better than regional languages should be limited to the home and English and Urdu should be the medium of instruction in any institute.

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Foreign Language Vs Mother Tongue in Pakistan. (2018, April 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 2, 2022, from
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