Academic journal article Western Folklore

Tatar and English Children's Folklore: Education in Folk Traditions

Academic journal article Western Folklore

Tatar and English Children's Folklore: Education in Folk Traditions

Article excerpt

The Tatars are Turkic-speaking people. The largest group is the Volga Tatars, which is native to the Volga region (Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in Russian Federation). Their language is Tatar. Their population is estimated to be close to 6 million (as of 2002). Besides the Volga Tatars, there are smaller groups also descended from the historical Tatars, the largest group of these being the Crimean Tatars, numbering close to half a million, whose Crimean Tatar language is no longer intelligible with the Volga Tatar language. The tradition of folklore/folktales, jokes, legends, and the like in the Volga Tatar languageis very rich and is incorporated into everyday life and events.

It's a fact that nations applied to folklore when they intended to fulfill any spiritual need. For instance, interest in folklore in Turkey began in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the need was felt to forge a national language which could be understood by the majority (Baçgôz 1972:162). According to ilhan Baçgôz, this limited aim, however, turned into a full cultural movement to discover the forgotten culture of the Turkish nation when the nationalistic movement rejected the main cultural traits of the Ottoman Empire, in language, art, and politics (Baçgôz 1972:176).

Nationalism, which had shaken the nineteenth century of Europe and later Turkey starting with the first World War, did not become an important force in former USSR republics until the Perestroika, although it had its significant influence on that region during the first few decades of the 19th century. Like other former USSR ethnic groups, such as the Tatars, interest in folklore began in the last decade of the nineteenth century, when the need was felt to forge a national language, which was on the verge of disappearance. To preserve the language means to preserve the speakers of that language, which of course, is only possible by educating the new generation in their native tongue through folk traditions. We believe that this experience started showing its visible results and in the last decades, in which Tatar language has shown signs of vitality. It is also shown that children's folklore and nursery rhymes helped Tatar children to become better individuals. Keeping this in mind when teaching, it is important to have an initial aim of perfecting the formation of an individual child's spirituality and consciousness. Iona and Peter Opie were right in categorizing the lullabies together with "baby games": infant amusements which aim to teach an infant his/her features, fingers and toes, basic rules, helping first physical exercises by dandling and encouraging to eat (Opie 1957:1).

"Every human infant is bom into a world with two distinct sound systems. The first is linguistic and includes vowels, consonants, and pitch contrasts of the native language. The second is musical and includes timbres and pitches of the culture's music. Even without explicit instruction, most infants develop into adults who are proficient in their native language and who enjoy their culture's music" (Patel 2008). Also, according to scientific and theological research, "even when it is in its mother's womb, a child feels, learns, remembers the voices from outside and later remembers this information" (Avci 1991:146). It seems this is given more recognition in the Tatar educational system which has its basis in Islam: the Quran and Prophet Muhammad's hadiths. "As the establishment of manners and moral values in the soul is a matter of time, these values must be put into a child slowly in the right way. A child becomes an individual under the influence of things seen and heard at home, rather than advice" (Avci 1991:146). In Tatar, this development of manners and morals is referred to as taufiklylyq, imanlylyk or insaflylyq.

Like in other nations, the history of the emergence and growth of Tatar and English nursery rhymes goes back for centuries by being connected to folklore. …

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