‘Each person lives in the midst of language’. Language plays a cardinal role to communication, learning, relationship and personal and cultural identity. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan where as English has the status of official language. Since 1947, according to the national education policy; Urdu and English has been considered as a medium of instruction for masses and elite in institutions respectively.
With the passage of time only English has been given importance without realizing that both the languages play a vital role in education and it is important to develop interest in languages among young learners. However, the realization of the importance of native language is equally important. Parents who speak language other than English often feel that they are sending their children to school specifically to become fluent in English language which is considered as a language of power.
They do not realize that if their child’s first language is not nurtured and developed, chances are great that he or she will lose the ability to speak it and eventually it will lead the child towards identity crisis. People are not aware that, in fact, the use of the national language also promotes the cognitive development, self esteem, second language (usually English) acquisition and academic preparation of children.
Nowadays, private and public educational institutions are promoting the use of English. It is a general belief that children must eventually acquire English to succeed in this society, where English is the language of government, higher education, business and virtually all major arenas therefore, children must speak English to access higher education and well-paying jobs. This perception has bought a great damage to Urdu language.
At present, being a part of a multilingual society, young learners feel difficulty to understand Urdu in comparison to English as Urdu script is difficult to read and write. Moreover, code-switching has put such a bad impact on Urdu speakers that they even don’t know the meanings of common vocabulary. Educators, parents and society need to acknowledge and respect children’s home language. There should be an environment which provides increased opening for learning Urdu language so that young learners could feel attached, supported and fostered.
In context of language learning, information and communication technologies (ICT) play an important role as the media is bridging and enabling the learning process. It has direct communication between teacher and students although they are not present in the same room or place in certain time. Language learning program are created to enable students to learn the lessons with instruction, guidance, information or further explanation. Moreover, the use of on-line resources has the potential to revolutionize the quality of language learning and teaching when carefully integrated into the classrooms.
The use of ICT in Urdu language learning facilitates learners to understand the language in a better way. It also enables Urdu language teachers to promote creative use of ICT in teaching of Urdu Language using concept mapping for writing. In the modern age of technological developments; a comprehensive on-line resource on Urdu language encourages learners to take an interest in learning Urdu language. So far very little online resource is available for Urdu language.
Online Urdu Dictionary (OUD) is helpful in promoting and understanding Urdu language skills in this scenario. Furthermore, it can be used as a resource for enhancing the language proficiency. OUD is electronically available resource which is easily accessible like other on-line English dictionaries. It is a comprehensive on-line dictionary which delivers compact and dynamic information. Many dictionaries have been used in its preparation and one the most important is Urdu Lughat by Urdu Lughat Board, Karachi. The use of OUD is advantageous in several ways as it gives exposure to authentic language; gives English translation of the looked up words; uses linguistic, historical and literal meanings of the words and explains all the words with examples. Moreover, it provides the synonyms of the words which are a great help in vocabulary building. Like other on-line resources; modern amenities have been taken care of in the usage of OUD. Such on-line resources not only provide ease to learners yet they are helpful in understanding Urdu language in its cultural aspect.
Our native language is the most essential part of our being. It is important to learn English language besides our own because it is applied in many fields and it helps us to learn about other cultures but the most important one that we can learn is our own mother tongue as this is one of the most basic parts of our identity. If we lose our own tongue, in my opinion, we are losing a part of ourselves. Furthermore, a truly multilingual society is stronger and better equipped to contribute to an international community and economy as we have examples of China and Japan. At younger and younger ages, children are negotiating difficult transitions between their home and educational surroundings, requiring an adaptation to more than one different sets of rules, values, expectations, and behaviors. Educationists, teachers and parents must respect and reinforce one other as they work together to achieve the greatest benefit for all learners.