By Maria Famakinwa
In the contemporary world where information and knowledge have grown to become indispensable in human development and societal advancement, the development and standardisation of indigenous languages have become imperative.
Indigenous languages are the tribal, native or local languages spoken by indigenous people.The language is from a linguistically district community that has been settled in the area for many generations. Teaching indigenous languages in Nigerian schools has continued to pose serious challenges to teeming Nigerian children in this modern society, especially in private schools where indigenous languages are not given much credence.
Generally, language, whether indigenous or foreign, is an indispensable tool in the life of individuals because there is no aspect of human activity that can be successful without effective use of language. Language plays a great role in culture and societal development because it is used daily and variously to meet different needs. Some citizens who spoke with The Hope gave reasons why indigenous languages should be encouraged as the sure way to sustain our culture.
A retired civil servant, Mr Adesegun Akinlade, who observed that some children could hardly speak their native languages blamed parents for the development and warned that children who could not communicate in their native languages may lose their identity.
His words: “It is becoming worrisome that many Nigerian children can hardly speak their native languages which is impacting negatively on the culture and values of the society. Parents should be blamed for this. As a matter of fact, most parents are no longer interested in promoting indigenous language at home which is the first environment in which children can acquire the basic knowledge of the language. Parents who fail to teach their children the native language have the notion that indigenous language normally have negative impact on academic performance especially in English language which is regarded as our official language. During my college days, we were majorly taught in our indigenous language and the standard of education then was better than now.
“Most countries all over the world like China, France among others teach in their local languages and this has helped them to promote their culture, norms and tradition because language is a basic tool for promoting and transforming cultural heritage from one generation to another. Besides, their standard of education is better than ours, that is the more reason most of our citizens run abroad to study. Neglecting our indigenous language is the reason some of our culture, norms and tradition are going into extinction. The earlier we correct this the better for our country,” he said.
Sharing a similar view, an educationist, Mr Olabisi Amire, who described indigenous language as a potent vehicle for transmitting culture, norms, values and beliefs from generation to generation added that the use of such language is central to the holistic development of any nation.
The educationist who lamented the effects of foreign language on our culture said: “Realising the importance of our indigenous language is the only way to promote our culture and tradition. More so, it will also go a long way in helping the children academically because it is generally believed that if a child is taught in his/her indigenous language, there is tendency for such child to perform excellently as carried out by a renowned educationist, Late ‘Fafunwa’, who conducted an educational research on primary school students.
“Promoting indigenous language is the only way to sustain our derailing cultural heritage as language is regarded as the impetus for sustaining cultural norms and tradition. Proper attention should be given to indigenous language in Nigeria, both primary and secondary schools should implement language policy. Also, parents at home should speak and encourage their children at home to speak their mother tongues as it serves as the only source of sustaining our cultural heritage, norms and traditions.”
A parent and teacher, Mrs Olufunke Olutona, who also urges parents to encourage their children to speak their native languages explained that the need to promote indigenous language includes to stimulate the child’s interest in learning, to avoid loss of identity and to retain our cultural values.
Her words: “powerful countries in the world have all done that. South Africa has nine official languages, and China supports all 55 languages in its country. They even pay to have newspapers translated into those languages. India does the same thing and even awards yearly prizes to writers in local Indian languages. Needless to say these countries have a deep identity, making them more patriotic and which makes information easily accessible to the masses, even the old and poor.
“Promoting self-pride perhaps is one of the most important aspects of garnering support to promote indigenous language. Without support from the community, it’s difficult to get anything going. A lot of destruction and put down often actually comes from the mind of members of the indigenous community themselves. Without self-pride, no one will ever use the language or want to help the culture survive.
“The place of indigenous language in Nigeria today has been underplayed by the official language; English, That is why our indigenous language is losing its linguistic features. Most of the indigenous speakers today did not know much about the deep structures. The inability of children to speak their native language fluently has been attributed to the neglect of parents towards the development of the language. Some parents even instructed their children not to speak their mother tongues which has negatively impacted their language acquisition. Therefore, to promote the effective use of indigenous languages for communication, parents must play a vital role because children start learning from the home as it is generally believed that parents are the children first teachers. We must all play our parts to revive our dying mother tongues,” she warned.
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