Would your native language go extinct with this generation?


Art work  titled 'Teach Them' by  Olawunmi Banjo

 
Do you speak your native language at home always, sometimes or not at all? There is a growing concern that some languages might go extinct after this present generation. This fear comes from the fact that many families rather communicate among themselves in English Language than do in their mother tongue.

The issue actually surfaced in my home when I asked my son to get me an item in my native language. First, he was amused by the sound of the word and asked what I was talking about.  I felt beaten that my own language sounded strange to my own child. But then, I knew that the boy was not to be blamed because I only speak to them in my native language sometimes.

In the course of the week, I have taken on the responsibility of consciously talking to everyone in my home in my native language. The children seem to like it but it has been very challenging because I have had to explain almost everything I say in English to them.  And I was worried again if we are actually going to make some progress.

While people ordinarily assume that children tend to learn the local language of  their immediate  environment, it seem to me that it just may not follow that way. I have seen families of Yoruba descent  who live in Lagos, yet  are faced with the problem of their children not speaking their native language.  Even when the parents talk to them in Yoruba Language, they reply in English Language.

A family friend, who is Igbo by tribe, has also complained about her children not understanding every word of her native Igbo Language. She explains that her problem is with her husband who though is Igbo by origin, but was born and raised in Campus Square area of Lagos Island. She laments that her husband grew up speaking Yoruba and still prefers communicating in the language, so she is the only one making an effort to help the children learn Igbo Language.


By the multiplicity of the challenge that makes people speak a preferred language to their mother tongue, I tried to do some analysis and resolved that:

In places like Lagos where I live, and Port-Harcourt where a very close cousin of mine lives with her family, families tend to communicate in Pidgin and English Languages because it appears easier to communicate with people from different tribes of Nigeria.

In some parts of the city, like Lagos, you could find the neighbourhood children communicating in Yoruba Language, so the language overshadows their native languages if their parents have not been talking to them in those languages from their early years.

Interest in a language counts a lot in learning and understanding the language, just as do association with friends.

Many parents today cannot speak their native languages so, it is impossible for them to teach their children those languages. However, some form of help could come in if they can engage the services of language teachers for the children.

While the school curriculum has provision for local languages to be taught in different states of Nigeria, a strong interest has also risen for the need to begin to learn the Chinese language for international trade reasons.  

Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiong'O, enjoins African writers to begin to write books in their mother tongues, while UNESCO believes that if people are able to keep their mother tongue alive, they will be able to preserve their cultural traditions.
I’m back on the drawing board,  working hard to contribute my own quota so that my native language remains. What about you? Kindly share your opinion.