By Funmilayo Adeyemi
People of the `old school’ are worried that many young Nigerians could not speak their mother tongue.
They blamed parents and the country’s educational system for the development.
Many parents of the same ethnic group, even at home prefer to discuss with their children in English language, while English remains a compulsory subject to study any course in tertiary institutions, including Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.
Mrs Abimbola Adetokun, a teacher, said the trend should be redressed, as “ mother tongue helps a country preserve its culture as well as strengthen the norms and values.
“Language is the power house of culture and knowledge; it controls the culture of a given people.
“ This is so because you need to know the language spoken by a group of people before learning the culture,’’ she said.
Adetokun called on parents to always communicate with their children in their mother tongue as this would enable them pick the language in the home setting.
She suggested that television and radio stations should air many indigenous languages’ programmes.
Mrs Chiyere Ohanusi, a linguist and Head Teacher of Unique Kids Academy, blamed the declining interest in indigenous languages on parents’ refusal to speak the indigenous languages to their children.
“Parents have roles to play and to educate their children on need to learn and speak the language. The child spends greater part of his time in the home setting.
“ So the parents have the greater responsibility of imparting such knowledge, and if the language is introduced at the formative age, it will help the child appreciate indigenous culture.
“And for schools, cultural clubs should be established to encourage the speaking of the language,’’ she stressed.
Ohanusi appealed to the Federal Ministry of Education to“ mandate schools to implement the teaching of the three major languages,’’ in order to boost their speaking by Nigerian youths.
Prof. Emmanuel Dandaura of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, also canvassed for the use of indigenous languages to strengthen the culture of the country.
“Mother tongue is the oil that keeps the society running, and no society can make reasonable progress when mother tongue is relegated to the background.
“It is important to say that the use of mother tongue is central to development; it helps in the transmission of knowledge, norms and values of a people.
“It can serve as a good medium to change negative mindsets about our environment and relationships,’’ he said.
In a similar vein, Miss Ijeoma Idika-Chima, Founder of Teenz Global Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, said that encouraging teenagers to speak indigenous languages would boost socio-cultural developments in the country.
“It is therefore necessary to teach, re-orientate and sensitise the younger ones to learn and speak the mother tongue.
“This will help promote unity, love and harmony among multi-cultural groups in the country,’’ she said.
According to Chima, most teenagers have lost their cultural orientation to westernisation,
She said that “due to what technology age has offered, the teenagers feel that upholding moral values and speaking indigenous languages was archaic. ’’
Chima called on parents, teachers and relevant stakeholders to ensure the teaching of indigenous languages in schools. “It is also an avenue to showcase the pride and potential of an ethnic group, community or nation.
“Nigerians must not allow our local languages to die, because if they do, it could lead to loss of cultural, historical and ecological knowledge of the people,’’ she added.
Mr Ayanwale Olayanju, the UNESCO National Programme Officer on Culture, noted that many indigenous languages were now endangered,
He said that it was in a bid to revive the indigenous languages across the world, that UNESCO fixed Feb. 21 of every year as the International Mother Tongue Day.
Olayanju stressed the need to teach indigenous languages in schools across the country.
“ The country’s indigenous languages must however be taught at various school levels as this will facilitate its revival,’’ the UNESCO programme officer stated.
He further suggested that some textbooks for primary and secondary schools should be written in indigenous languages.
Language is an inheritance, government and stakeholders should sustain all programmes designed to promote indigenous languages.