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DateLine Sunday, 17 February 2008

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Respect your mother language

In this day and age, there is so much emphasis (importance) on learning English. The ability to understand and communicate in English is considered a plus factor in all areas of life - in gaining an education, in the job market or in society.


A banner built up for the special day.

But there is one thing that you have to take to heart. In this rush to master the universal language of English, you should never abandon your mother tongue. Of course, there is quite a large population in the world for whom the mother tongue is English.

This may be the case for some people in Sri Lanka too. But for the majority, the mother language may be Sinhala, Tamil, Arabic or even Malay.

You should never discard this mother language because it is very much a part of your identity.

Over 6,000 different languages are spoken around the world today. A language is a means of communication and an expression of culture and identity. So you can just imagine the diversity and richness these languages would have brought to the world.

This diversity is celebrated on February 21, when International Mother Language Day is observed. The Day was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in November 1999, and was first commemorated in 2000. Since then, it had been observed by UNESCO and many of its member states every year, to promote linguistic and cultural diversity.

The objectives of the event are to save vulnerable languages and cultures and to save cultural diversity around the world.

Languages are powerful instruments of preserving and developing the heritage of a country and are at the heart of UNESCO's objectives. The organisation hopes that the moves to promote dissemination (the spreading) of mother tongues will encourage linguistic diversity, multi-lingual education, develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

The event is conducted mostly as international recognition of the Language Martyrs' Day, which had been commemorated in Bangladesh since 1952 when many Bengali-speakers were killed during protest action launched in favour of their language.

This shows that people have even died for their mother language. One should always be proud of one's mother tongue and should treat it with respect and honour no matter how many foreign languages one may know.


Meditation:

A way to cope with examinations

During examination time, there is a lot to study. But children like to play or watch TV without studying, Even when they are reading, their minds are running; so they read the same page again and again! How do you keep your mind still? You can use the breath as a tool.

All you have to do is to watch or observe the breath, natural breath, as it comes in and goes out of the nostrils. Close your eyes and try to visualise or rather feel the breath coming in and going out, at the entrance of the nostrils, just for five minutes.

It is not easy for the mind to watch the breath. The mind, like a playful monkey, jumps all over the place, from one tree to another, one fruit to another, one thought to another. One moment, it will be thinking of food, next, games. Then it will go off on a picnic.

After that, it will run away to games or go to watch Spiderman! The mind does what it likes - even if we do not want it to happen, such as playing Playstation when we are supposed to be studying.

Mindfulness in breathing helps us to control our feelings and thoughts and to develop concentration. With a sharp mind, one can do more in a shorter period of time. Here's an interesting story in this connection. Once there were two wood cutters. One worked throughout the day, the other took breaks in between.

At the end of the day, the one who took breaks cut the most number of trees. Why? Because he sharpened his axe while resting! So, when we sharpen our minds through breathing meditation, we can study a lot within a shorter period of time.

We choose breathing as our object of concentration because it is the first thing that we do when we are born and the last when we die and it is always there with us. Breath tells us many things.

Our breath is calm when we are peaceful and happy, but fast and painful when we are angry or sad. We can use the breath as a tool to help us live a calm, peaceful and happy life. Benefits of mindfulness in breathing includes high concentration in studies, improvement in understanding and expression, better performance in sports and other activities and development of self-confidence.

There are meditation classes and retreats around the world specially designed for children. When you get stressed during examination times, you can practise loving kindness and meditation as a way of relief from stress: The meditation could go on like this: "May I be well and happy. May I be free from anger and ill-will.

May I generate love and compassion. I seek pardon from those I've done wrong to and I forgive those who've hurt or harm me.

"May all beings without exception be happy. Whatever the living beings there may be - feeble or strong; long, stout, or of medium size; short, small or large; those seen or those unseen; those dwelling far or near; those who are born as well as those yet to be born.

May all beings have happy minds. In anger, let me not wish harm to another. Just as a mother loves her only child, I spread unconditional love above, below and around".

Be Happy!

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