One cannot be sure if this is a wider problem with colonized societies, but in Nigeria, modern parents erroneously believe it is crass to allow their children to learn their local dialects. They believe it is not classy enough to be linked with a past or childhood where their native tongue is very prominent. These parents feel they are protecting their children, even from the horrors of the streets; but unknowingly to them, they successfully rob them of the ability which so many people envy – multilingualism. After all, there is this catchy tone whenever we hear foreigners speak either Queen’s or American English, and the allure of this is not helping matters with the growing trend.
Local languages are censored and barred from a good crop of private schools. Even the local language curriculum suffers a more horrible fate, in contrast to the compulsory learning of foreign languages in these schools. Hefty fines and embargoes get placed on whoever flouts this strict rule of speaking vernacular. And while this is true about schools, the speaking of their native tongue is a taboo in some homes, and parents consciously avoid introducing any audio-visual material which may encourage such learning.
For background sake, in a rapidly developing African nation such as in South Africa, all local languages in the country are approved as the lingua franca despite the commonality of Afrikaan language. And these local languages are accepted and freely spoken anywhere, even as the language of instruction in schools. We have chosen to live by an unworkable statute here, instead. Local languages are relegated to be a lowly vernacular, and English is approved as the lingua franca. This dodginess is partly deeply ingrained in the culture of being subdued with subtle neo-colonialist hints. A culture centred on self-loathing and value transference.
This problem is so deep that since western education took shape in Nigeria, there is already more than one generation of Nigerians who cannot speak, write and/or understand their parent’s native tongue. This is partly why some folks are not street-smart. Away from the fact that strangulating the engagement in native tongues is a key part in erasing the versatile African heritage, there is also no faster way to ostracise oneself from the society.
Furthermore, some studies have revealed that those who cannot relate in their mother tongue may have troubles relating and fully integrating with the larger society later in life. It has also been revealed that learning multiple languages at an early age can improve a child’s learning ability as well as improve other psycho-social attributes.
Parents who are guilty of this may not know the futuristic damage it may cause to an individual’s confidence, sense of security, self-esteem, and networking advantage if they cannot speak, read, and write their own native tongue perfectly. It, therefore, behoves parents and guardians to give their wards this lasting legacy, against all the odds whispering to rob a child of this noble attribute.
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