By Olaitan Oye-Adeitan

Sometimes ago at a conference on ‘Mother Tongue’, held in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, a language scholar expressed displeasure at a statement he once heard from someone to a child, and the statement was, “If you speak Yoruba, you will go to hell”.

One can easily conclude the kind of picture the statement had painted on the mind of that child, knowing fully well the indelible imprints words can leave on children.

It is not strange to see many parents today raise children, who cannot communicate in their native tongues while their parents can.

These children could understand the language but cannot speak the same.

There are also parents who categorically plead with relatives, friends or visitors not to communicate with their children in the native tongue.

In fact, some homes have this inscription on the door post of their children’s rooms, “Vernacular speaking is prohibited”.

Is it not shocking that some children have been seriously scolded and in some cases canned just for speaking in their native language?

A child being scolded by her parent

This is the trend and disposition of some parents in modern society to the highly cherished, valuable and crucial aspect of human development – language.

But for the government which made the learning of the mother language compulsory in the curriculum, the major native languages would perhaps have gone into extinction.

Interestingly, the much-sidelined mother tongue is now the toast of the Western world with some foreigners including Americans enrolling in some Nigerian Universities to study local languages and culture.

One could vividly recall that the first Nigerian Professor of Education and Nigeria’s Minister of Education between 1990 and 1992, the late Babatunde Fafunwa posited, “The original thinking of a man is in his native tongue”.

Professor Fafunwa was of the opinion that, primary school children were better off when taught in their indigenous languages, a position revalidated by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO.

Suffice to note that several nations of the world including China, Japan, France and Tanzania have adopted one of their nation’s indigenous languages as the national language and adopted it for classroom use.

Without mincing words, this is real food for thought for parents who are discouraging their children from speaking their mother tongue.

Discouraging a child from communicating in his native language will not only rob the child of his identity but also deny him the opportunity to enjoy adequate mental coordination, going by the submission of the late Babatunde Fafunwa.

Such an act is also capable of making a child see his language as inferior to others while he is already restricted in the language of communication.

Another sad consequence is the disconnect such trend would create between the older and younger generation, for many children now find it hard to communicate with their grandparents.

Ironically, the grandparents never raised their own children (the supposed parents of the children in question) in that manner.

The learning process may also be impaired as the child is unconsciously made to struggle cognitively in terms of reasoning, interpreting, speaking and relating with others in the native tongue.

Out of ignorance, parents who are guilty of this believe making a child communicate regularly in his mother tongue, would deprive him of speaking fluently in the English Language.

However, the likes of Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Custodians of Culture and notable authors including the late Professor Wande Abimbola, Akinwumi Isola, Adebayo Faleti, Daniel Orowole Fagunwa, popularly known as D. O Fagunwa, Kola Akinlade, Zulu Sofola, among other highly revered Nigerians have all proven this notion wrong by their mastery of both Yoruba and English Languages as well as their fluency in speaking same.

Experts have also blamed the little or no regard for mother tongue as contributory to the decline in moral standard of the society, for character is believed to be rooted in the language of birth.

This invariably also has an effect on the concept of Omoluabi, a summation of the Yoruba moral code of courage, hard work, humility and respect.  

If this trend will change, then charity must begin at home.

It is therefore high time parents, guardians and cultural advocates picked the gauntlet, with particular emphasis on parents to change the narrative by teaching and encouraging their children to communicate in their native tongue, not only at home but outside the home to build confidence in them and ability to interact well with others.

Parents must make their children realize that their language is not in any way inferior to other languages, but rather a comparative advantage.

This must be promptly addressed to save the nation’s indigenous languages from going into extinction and prevent a situation where foreigners, who are currently learning the languages, would be the ones to be training real owners in the nearest future.

Olaitan Oye-Adeitan

Subscribe to our Telegram Channel and join our Whatsapp Update Group


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *