Growing up bilingual

Our member Ms M. Sen was brought up in Varanasi, a Hindi speaking community but being a Bengali, her mother insisted she learnt her mother tongue to remain bonded to her roots. Ms Sen shares her journey of learning and practicing two languages simultaneously.
First things first. I grew up in Varanasi, so in that sense, my upbringing took shape outside Bengal. When it was time for me to attend my first school, most schools in Varanasi followed a Hindi-medium curriculum and I was enrolled in one such school. Thatโ€™s how I started learning Hindi. But Bengali being my native language, my mother had already made it a point to meticulously teach me how to read and write in Bengali. She had bought me interesting age-appropriate books in Bengali. In addition, she had subscribed to quality magazines such as ๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ-๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช and ๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ๐˜ฌ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ข. We also subscribed to the daily published ๐˜‘๐˜ถ๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ and the then famous Hindi newspaper ๐˜ˆ๐˜ข๐˜ซ. My siblings and I were glued to these reading materials since our childhood days. At school, I continued with my Hindi education. My parents also subscribed to the Hindi magazine ๐˜Š๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข-๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ข, just so we could read more in Hindi. So, we eased into both Bengali and Hindi simultaneously.
Since my early childhood days, I always enjoyed writing poems. I took a chance and submitted poems to ๐˜ˆ๐˜ข๐˜ซโ€™๐˜ด childrenโ€™s section, ๐˜‰๐˜ข๐˜ข๐˜ญ-๐˜š๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฅ and pretty soon they started publishing my poems in Hindi. Once my paternal grandmother got a wind of this, she insisted that I should also write poems in Bengali. My grandmother, Shantilata Dasgupta was herself a very talented poet. Eventually, I took up writing poems in Bengali at her insistence and submitted poems to ๐˜”๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ ๐˜‰๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ช; these poems were also published.
All my life I have practiced my craft, and after eight decades, I continue to write in Bengali and Hindi, verse as well as prose. Based on my personal experience what I can attest to is that children can acquire language skills very easily, and once they become grounded in one particular language, they can easily learn another language. Learning one language in no way hinders learning another language.

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