Is Teaching Nepali
In many ways we assume it is a good
thing to teach our children to read and write Nepali. But at the
end of the day we have to ask ourselves the question, "Is teaching
Nepali good?" Or to put it another way, " Is teaching
Nepali useful?" Necessary? After all, we have come to a new
place, we have chosen to make this our home and adopt it as our
own. So, why should we go through the trouble of teaching our children
a language from a place we have left behind? Is not Nepal and Nepali
now a permanent part of our past? Why go back to a past that will
never be a part of our present?
There are many emotional reasons
why we may want to teach our children to not only speak Nepali but
also to read and write Nepali. Setting aside our emotions, let's
look at it from a more practical and rational perspective.
Here are five reasons why you should
not teach Nepali to your children:
1. English is preeminent
. We can all relate to how important it was for us to learn
English as we were being educated in Nepal. After all, English is
the language of higher learning, commerce and global communication.
Our parents recognized the value of learning English and made it
a priority to send us to "english medium" schools in Kathmandu.
Nepali society assumes that only those who have a sound grasp of
English can truly succeed in their career goals.
So, now that we reside in mostly
English-speaking countries we have an obligation to our children
that they focus their attention on mastering this language. To become
successful in America, UK, Australia, Canada and any other country
you need to have a firm grasp of English. Not only this but you
also need to have excellent communication skills. Why should we
deny our children the opportunity to gain these skills by confusing
them and asking them to devote their time to learning Nepali. This
time could be better spent taking public speaking classes, extra
grammar classes or even debate classes.
2. Nepali as a language
is irrelevant at the global level. Nepali may be spoken
by 30 to 40 million people in the world, but at the global level
this is irrelevant. In terms of art, culture, business, and higher
learning there is no useful reason to know Nepali if you intend
to live in the Western world. Relatively speaking, Nepal is a country
with little international engagement and is of very low geo-strategic
importance to the West. So, knowing the language adds very little
in terms of adding value to Western society. There is simply a low
demand for Nepali speakers in the Western world.
3. Learn other useful languages.
With the low strategic and global significance of the Nepali language,
it is more worthwhile teaching our children other languages. With
the rise of China, would it not be more reasonable to teach them
Chinese? Or, with the influence of France, they may be better positioned
for success by learning French. Considering the importance of the
Germany to the European economy, shouldn't we teach them German?
Or, Spanish and Italian. Simply speaking, there are many other languages
which can help our children succeed in the future. Nepali is not
a language that will help our children succeed in any significant
4. Time is better spent
on other pursuits. Language is not the only thing our children
can be taught in order for them to be successful in the future.
There are other skills that can play a stronger role. What about
music, science, art and sports - there are many opportunities here.
In fact, our children may even be better-suited for these pursuits.
Additionally, our children may have better aptitude in these areas
and be more likely to succeed in these areas. It is an understood
fact that in the long-term it is better for them to focus their
attention on that which they display strong interest and ability.
Given the choices of skills to pursue, learning Nepali could fall
into the category of a simple means of pleasing their parents and
fulfilling their obligation instead of pursuing their passion.
5. Forget the past, adapt
for the future. If we were to peek into the lives of our
children we would see them yearning to adapt to their surroundings.
This is human nature. No one likes to stick out and be different
from the pack. Hence, as they grow up in this culture they will
seeks ways to become as integrated to this society as possible.
In this respect they may not view learning Nepali as a very helpful
step in being "accepted" into the local culture. In other
words, there is little internal motivation and incentive for your
children to learn to read and write Nepali. If our goal as a parent
is to make them as successful as possible then we owe it to them
to help them in this pursuit as much as possible.
Should we then
still consider teaching our children Nepali?
There are many other practical and
rational reasons to not teach our children to read and write in
Nepali. However life is not just about being practical and rational.
In fact life is more interesting and worthwhile when we leave behind
the practical and the rational in pursuit of the emotional and irrational.
So, while there may not be a whole slew of scientific reasons to
learn Nepali there is one powerful reason why you should. That reason
has to do with your identity as a Nepali and your connection to
At the end of the day when our
children are grown and successful they will yearn for a connection
to the home of their ancestors. They will reminisce the food, the
culture and the language. It is a known phenomenon that if immigrant
children do not learn their native language, whether spoken or written,
they lament this fact as adults. They will mourn that a significant
part of their identity has been lost because the language was not
fully passed down to them. Additionally, when they have their own
kids they will have a desire to teach them their heritage. What
a gift it will be if your grandchildren are passed on the Nepali
language as well.
I have spoken to adults in other
immigrant communities who were raised here as children. Those that
have not learned their parents language are always wistful that
they never were afforded the opportunity to learn the language.
Whether Greek, Russian, Italian, Bengali, Indian or Chinese these
adults have expressed to me the loss they feel for themselves and
an even greater loss they experience as they raise their own children.
So, while there are many reasons
to not teach your children to read and write in Nepali, there is
one very powerful and relevant reason why you should. Do not deny
your children this opportunity. This is unique gift that only you
have to pass on. No one else in their life can influence and touch
them in the same way, with this specific ability, as you can. And
no one else even knows or is considering that this treasure exists
to pass on. You have a tremendous and absolutely rare opportunity
to give your children an inheritance that cannot fade and will impact
them and their children forever. A day will come when you will be
burst with pleasure as you see them able to speak, read and write
in Nepali. Think of the day they will write a letter to your brothers
or sisters in Nepali. Think of them reading Nepali books and learning
about great Nepali poets. Or them teaching their brothers and sisters
Nepali! The connection, the bond and the identity that will be forged
is priceless! And...one day, your children themselves will burst
with pleasure at the fact that they can speak, read and write Nepali.
They will well with pride and gratefulness that their identity is
complete and cannot ever be shaken.