Saturday, September 7, 2013

FACTS: Why Our Native Languages Can Go Into Extinction

It is obvious that with the way our native languages are being handled in schools especially in townships, four to five generations ahead will definitely find it difficult to identify where they are from. In a country like Nigeria where there are so many ethnic groups and languages, you you could hardly see a child or an adult speaking his/her native language.
Some are even very proud to tell you that they don’t know how to speak the language because, they were not born in the village. While many are condemning this act, most people are busy saying that, it is the product of civilization.
For 14 years old Ginika, who was born in Lagos, she can count the number of times she has visited her village in Enonyi state. Her not being able to speak her native language of Afikpo is a situation she so detests. She has always longed for someone who would teach her how to speak the language very fluently.
All the efforts by her parents to speak the language went down the drain because each time she goes to school, she would be compelled to speak in the language everybody will understand which is English language.
“ I have always loved to speak my language very well because, that is what makes me unique but, whenever I go to school, I will be compelled by my teachers and fellow students to speak a language everybody will understand which is English. Like in my school, if you are caught speaking local language during school hours, you will be punished. Is either you pay a fine of N50 or you will be given corporal punishment. Though I understand the language very well, I can’t speak it.
I know the problem is that I hardly travel to my village. I can count the number of times I have been to my place. It has not exceeded 5 times since I was born. In the area where I live and because I help my mother to sell akara in the evening, I am forced to understand and speak Yoruba more than my own native language.
Most of our customers are usually people who speak that language and they will expect you to understand and reply them in the same language whether you like it or not. So, I learnt the language better. I will be glad if I can speak the language well.”
According to madam Janet, Ginika’s mum, who is popularly called Nwanyi akara by her customers, she has done everything humanly possible to ensure that her children have a better understanding of their native language but her effort seems not to be producing positive results.
“I try as much as possible to teach them the language but whenever they get to the school, they will keep complaining to me that they were warned in school not to be using vernacular during school hours and as a result, they cannot speak but they understand. I make sure I communicate to them using our language so that they can speak.” According to her, language is not what you will learn only at home.
Constant use of the language will also help in mastering the language. The young woman who should be in her middle 40’s blamed school proprietors for the declining nature of our native languages. She said that most school proprietors and government, do not make provision for teachers of these languages. “We should not blame the children for anything. The school and government are the major causes of all these problems. You find out that if you go to some schools, they do not have teachers that handle these major languages.
They prefer foreign languages like, English, French among others to our own native dialects. I will also, blame the parents. Some parents do not even make any attempt at teaching their children their languages. They keep teaching them English. The worst part of the whole story is that, they do not even teach them correctEnglish, they will be teaching them pidgin EnglishSome children can’t speak their native language and they can not also speak correct English. That is so bad.”
I will advise school proprietors to make provisions and timetable for our local languages in their school timetable especially, in the nursery and primary schools because, that is where learning begins so that they will be able to learn everything the same time,” Madam Janet advised.
According to Miss Mary Duru, who is a teacher in a nursery/primary school, she strongly she has a different view to the story as she strongly believes that parents are the major cause of all these problems. She argued that most parents prefer their kids speaking English language to their native languages.
The young lady said that, some parents organize extra moral classes where they are ready to pay huge sum of money for their children to learn foreign languages like, French, Spanish, English among others. “I disagree with any body who will blame the teachers for being the cause for this problem. Some parents register their children in some schools just for them to learn some foreign languages were the child do not even know how to speak his/her language. They do not see the reason for their children to be able to learn the native language.
They feel it is of less importance. Some of them even frown at teachers when you speak a native language to their children. They supposed to be using their native language for them well in the house knowing fully well that they will learn English language in school. Some parents even see their languages as foreign to them. They should inculcate the right discipline to their children right from time. Environment also contributes. Where you live and stay determines the language you will know more,” Mary lamented. She also stressed that, in as much as much value is not giving to our native languages, the possibilities of the language going extinct is there.
A mother who spoke about the issue to SATURDAY VANGUARD, Mrs. Chinwe Madu, said that she will blame the teachers and some parents for that. She went further to say that, the problem is caused mostly when the husband and wife are not from the same tribe. According to her, in a situation were the two parties are not from the same tribe, the only general language they understand is either English or a pidgin language.
“ I know that the problem is mostly caused by some circumstances where the husband and wife are not from the same part of the country, but they should also try and teach their children their father’s language. I have my Uncle who married a Togolese, he sent their daughter to a lesson center to learn English and French without caring to know if the girl can speak her father’s tongue, that is a very big problem. I could remember, when I relocated newly with my husband to Lagos from east, my first son was 4 years old and he speaks Igbo very well.
But whenever the small boy speaks the language amidst his friends, they will make a big mockery of him. His peers and even people that are much older than him will be calling him village boy and all sorts of names. Now, he cannot even speak the language again. Even when you speak Igbo to him, he will reply you with English. So, to me, I believe peer group and environment also contributes to that,” she said. She also advised that parents should try as much as they can do to teach their children their native language as that is the only thing that makes an individual unique.
On the side of the proprietors, she advised that they should make out time for native languages in their timetable as it is used to be in the past. In such a way that the three major Nigerian languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba are taught at least, once or twice in a week. In her words, she said, “ If proper care is not taken, our native languages will go extinct.
It will not only affect our languages, our tradition and culture are not safe. In most films now, they are no longer talking about what is obtainable in or culture instead it is so Western. Civilization is really not doing us good in this part”.
Source: Vanguard