Diary Adventures of LagosMums: DALM | The Language Struggle Between English and Everything Else
Today is International Mother Language Day and for the average person, this might not mean anything. There is a language struggle going on between English and everything else especially for our children today.
Many modern parents place a lot of focus on their children speaking perfect English over speaking any other language. As a result of the globalization of the world, English is the common factor and seems to be the universal passport to interact with everyone.
The older I am getting the more that I do miss speaking yoruba fluently. I even bought a Yoruba Bible to try and brush up my Yoruba speaking.
Growing up my parents spoke Yoruba regularly to themselves and even to us, so I grew up hearing it. In Secondary school, we would be punished for speaking Vernacular as it was called. We had language lessons but we did not take it seriously at all. Add in the fact that I used to get made fun of because older relatives would say I spoke Yoruba like an Igbo person, this all did not exactly encourage me to try to speak it more.
According to UNESCO, many languages are under the threat of going extinct because people are not speaking their local languages. This fact includes Nigeria!
Should we be worried about our Languages?
Yes, I definitely think so! I advise parents with young children to be sure that they speak their local languages to their children early. It is not about whether or not they need it for the future, it is an important part of their culture and knowing who they are and where they are from. This includes the names that we name our children, their names are the first part of their identity and culture. If our children do not speak, it is very likely by their children’s time (our grandchildren) they will not understand nor speak at all.
On my weekly parenting talk radio show today, a young lady called in to share that when she went to register for some community program, they rejected her application because she could not speak the language. They did not believe she was from that town. In her case, the town was close to the Cameroun border and so they thought she was not really from there.
When I went to school abroad, it was interesting to me that all the people I interacted with, whether first generation or second generation would always speak their languages when with their families. This cut across Polish-American, Spanish, Chinese, Swaziland or wherever they were from.
What Can We Do About the Language Struggle?
So maybe you are already a parent today and feel that you can speak your language well. So far you can speak some, then just speak it to your children. Once they get attuned to hearing you speak, it will increase their understanding. You can encourage their grandparents and other relatives to speak to them. The more they hear the more they will understand. So have a simple rule, English in school, your local language at home.
Another way to increase speaking the language at home is to hire domestic staff who speak the local language. I had this in the past whereby we hired a nanny who could only speak Yoruba, this meant that we could only communicate in Yoruba and it made a huge difference.
Share your pride in your Country and your culture, because your children feed off your vibes. Tomorrow is our election and it is an opportunity to speak positively about your Country, let your children see you go out and vote and show that you care about the future. If we raise Children who believe in the power of their votes, then they will be more invested in the leaders we elect.