Author: Founding Board Member Nasrina Bargzie
I arrived in the U.S. as a five-year-old refugee from Afghanistan. I love both my countries, the one I was born into (Afghanistan) and the one I have adopted (America). Pashto is my mother tongue, and learning English was hard for me.
Over the years my English has gotten better and better, though I still completely mess up American idioms, things somehow always come out of my mouth wrong, like, for example, “stop breathing down my throat.” And, unfortunately for me, my Pashto hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. So when my mother tells me Pashto idioms, I’m even more lost than by my American puzzles. Also, could we all just stop with the idioms? Of course, I don’t mean that. After all, idioms are the “the best thing since sliced bread.” And as we say in Pashto, “zra pah zra” (translates to: heart on heart), which for me, is Pashto, it’s imprinted on my heart, and is the language of my soul.
Somehow, someway I’ve made it through the labyrinth of these languages. The thing is, what I didn’t understand as a kid is that children learn best in their mother tongue. And that’s why I am so grateful for the work of Khan Academy and the work of We Have Hope Foundation.
The social scientists tell us that when kids learn in their mother tongue that they’re more likely to enroll in school, that parents are more likely to participate with teachers and in their kid’s learning, girls in rural communities tend to stay in school longer, and that kids in multi-lingual educational settings tend to develop better thinking skills compared to kids with just one language. See Global Partnership for Education, available at https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/children-learn-better-their-mother-tongue.
We Have Hope Foundation aims to give Pashto speaking children those opportunities. My heart is full to be able to help in some small way by being on the board of this remarkable organization.