Sunday, 1 March 2020

Mother Tongue: Why It Should Be Encouraged In Nigeria by Edim M. Edim

Edim M. Edim | 21st February 2020

We live in a society where an individual's intelligence, exposure, level of education among other things is measured by his/her ability or competence in the use of English, French, Portuguese among other international languages. It is regrettably observed that our native languages have suffered serious negligence and relegation due to the utmost preference to international languages. Although, the knowledge and use of these languages have socio-economic benefits that cannot be overemphasized or overlooked. But there is need for our own native languages to be given the same attention and utmost priority.

The term "Mother Tongue" refers to a person's native language. That is, a language learned from birth. Also called a first language, dominant language, home language or native tongue. Contemporary linguists and educators commonly use the term L1 to refer to a first or native language (The Mother Tongue) and the term L2 to refer to a second language or a foreign language that is being studied or learnt. 

Learning to speak in the mother tongue is very necessary for a child's overall development. Being fluent in the mother tongue, which is also known as the native language benefits the child in divers ways. It connects him/her to the culture and also eases communication in the home especially when surrounded by visitors. 

It is estimated that over 400 languages are spoken in Nigeria with major languages like Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik/Ibibio among others. Language is the key to the heart of the people. Sadly, is it quite common to see young Nigerians who cannot have a simple correct conversation in their mother tongue. Most Nigerian parents, especially the educated ones prefer to expose their children to the use of foreign languages in their homes, schools and even in religious places. One is viewed as "local and untamed" when seen or heard speaking his native language. It is wrong! 

Language is an integral part of one's culture, and if it is neglected as we do now, we lose it. Most of our native languages are dead and gone, while others are gradually going extinct because of the continuous negligence. Nigerians should rise up and tackle this issue quickly. If not, sooner or later, we may have no Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, Ejagham, Bekwara, Mbembe etc. to speak, and the future of our unborn children will be jeopardized. 

The Federal Government as well as other levels of governnent should as a matter of urgency implement our dormant language policy; encouraging her citizens to use our indigenous languages both in spoken and written forms.
Your Mother Tongue is your pride and identity. Use it today. 

Happy International Mother Tongue Day!