Five Reasons Nigerian Children Are Not Speaking Their Mother tongue

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In the past children spoke Nigeria’s indigenous languages namely Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa fluently and unashamedly. However, today, the complete opposite is the case. Kids can barely communicate in Efik or Idoma without adding a bit of English.

The consequences of this are that many of these languages are facing extinction while some of them have gone extinct. A research that is cited by those concerned to lend credence to the import of indigenous languages is that of former Minister of education, Prof. Babs Fafunwa.

The late Prof made a case for the mother tongue as the medium of education for the first 12 years of the child’s life. Through an organized mother-tongue education program, they discovered children taught in the Yoruba language performed better. Regardless, it has not changed the fortunes of these languages because kids have refused to communicate.

In line with this, we share five reasons children are not speaking their mother tongue.

1.Parents don’t speak the languages to them

Parents don’t speak their mother tongue to their children anymore. In fact, some of these parents when they go for attending events one of the best hotels in Lagos, they order their children not to speak the language. How can such a child learn the language? Parents should speak more to their kids in their mother tongue.

2.It is tagged vernacular

In some schools today, Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo among other languages are banned because they are considered vernacular. A child who speaks his or her mother tongue would be penalized. So from the formative years of these children, they already have the perception that speaking their mother tongue is bad.

3.They are uncivilized

Many people believe that you are uncivilized or local if you speak your mother tongue. So, in other to join the bandwagon and be accepted, they ditch Ibibio for English. This is all in the name of being civilized. Children have also been caught in this web

4.It is not compulsory in primary and secondary schools

While English is compulsory in secondary schools today, the indigenous languages are not even though a child must study one of these languages. Children will think the languages are a joke. Hence, they won’t bother to learn or speak it.

5.Technology

The engagement or interaction of children with technology is entirely in English. Their smartphone, video games, laptop and other tech gadgets are in English. So since many of them spend so much time with these gadgets, they don’t have anything to do with the languages. This is a challenge to Nigerian developers to design tech gadgets in the indigenous languages.

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Saving Nigeria’s mother tongue from extinction

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The ability to speak in your mother tongue cannot be overemphasized.  It is the glue that binds Nigerians together and enables us communicate our fears, feelings, values, traditions and culture, Jovago has found.

However, with the recent trend where parents interact with their children in the language of the British, the tendency for the next generation to sideline the local dialect for English language is raising gnawing concern among historians.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria has 521 languages out which 8 are extinct. They are Ajawa (Bauchi State); Basa-Gumna (Niger and Nasarawa states); Kpati, Kubi, Mawa (Bauchi State), Auyokawa, Teshenawa (Jigawa State); and Gamo-Ningi (Ningi Local Government, Bauchi State) languages.

Even in Nigeria’s multiethnic context, these numbers are alarming, therefore, all hands must on deck to prevent unpopular languages from fading into extinction.

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To check the current trend, the erudite scholar, Babs Fafunwa has recommended a viable solution which highlights the importance of teaching children to speak their mother-tongue for first 6 years in school. He believes that this will significantly expose them to these intricacies of these languages.

Based on a report he made public, when a deep look at the result of the exam of students taught in English language and in their mother-tongue were compared, those taught in their indigenous languages came out tops.

Sociologists who have studied the additional benefit associated with posit that the viable solution would be to teach our local languages as aggressively as we teach English. Although English is considered the language of business, they state that room should be made for verbal flexibility at the workplace.

In addition, parents should endeavour to communicate with their children in the indigenous language at home.

Finally, government and stakeholders should develop a workable primary and secondary school curriculum that fully integrates local languages and other relevant international lingos to give our future leaders a wholesome identity and experience.