15 reasons why you should encourage and promote speaking your African language
Finally …., having reviewed and written so much on why and what led to our African languages not being spoken as they should, I believe I should conclude by giving some reasons why we should speak our African languages more, because while researching ways to put my points across, I came across a website that gave 10 reasons why people should learn a foreign language in addition to theirs.
As you can see, the world around us is encouraging people to learn more languages apart from theirs, while I’m in fact doing the opposite; looking for ways to convince us of the need for our children to learn and speak our language. I have therefore come up with 15 reasons why we should ensure our children learn to speak our language from birth.
You are helping to keep your African language alive and protect it from becoming listed as one of the endangered languages.
You may not know it, but “UNESCO has identified 2,500 languages which it claims are at risk of extinction” click here for more information.
So speaking and ensuring your children speak your language will help ensure its posterity for another generation.
2. You authenticate and allow your children to accept who they are
You also might not think much of it, but as children are growing up not speaking their own language, you are unconsciously helping them to form the opinion that their language is not worth it or important enough if their parents will not speak or allow them to speak it, which can have an adverse effect on them as they would try to be or imitate who they are not. However, parents that speak their language to their children are imparting confidence in their children to accept and love who they are with grace and confidence to excel in life.
3. Speaking and allowing our children to speak our language shows we are proud of who we are
Speaking and allowing our children to speak our language puts no doubt in their minds of who they are and why they should be proud of their identity. But the question is, are we proud of who we are?
By not speaking our language for whatever reason may impart a different meaning to what we hope for to our children. I believe that speaking one’s language helps to declare one’s identity and gladly tell the world – this is me! One has an identity to be proud of and there is nothing wrong with that. This is what the world wants to see, someone that is proud of who they are.
4. Speaking one’s language gives a sense of belonging
The ability to speak ones language always give a sense of belonging that cannot be verbally expressed especially when one is away from their fatherland and by chance meet someone from their tribe or country that also speaks the language. There is an unspeakable bonding and a sense of belonging.
I know this as some years back, while a student in Russia, I met someone from The Republic of Benin where their only lingua Franca then was French while my country was and still is English. The only language we had in common was Yoruba as my fluency in Russian language at the time was not so good. However, an instant rapport developed when we discovered the two of us could speak Yoruba!
I have also had the opportunity of speaking to some young adults raised in the UK until adulthood that travelled to Nigeria about their experiences and almost all of them always wished they could speak their Nigerian language better and this language issue has actually spurred so many of them on to intensify their knowledge of their language.
5. We help our children become bilinguals (with less effort)
Speaking our language from birth to our children alongside our country’s lingua franca automatically makes them bilingual which we should be proud of and celebrate. Being monolingual in one’s own birth country at the expense of one’s own language is not worth thinking about in this age where bilingualism (at least) is being promoted around the world.
6. Speaking your language to your children from birth help them to have a deeper understanding of the culture and the richness of the language
It is a fact that one can easily grasp the language and culture that one grows up in, the richness of the language, proverbs, idioms of expression including having a deeper understanding of the colloquial part of the language from just being raised from birth in the language environment which speaking the language away from its country of origin or learning it later can never fully impart.
For example, saying “am knackered” to a Londoner might be seeing as meaning “been tired” but when outside London, the meaning is not so and is rarely used and definitely not openly or among casual friends. How did I know this? I knew this the day I used this expression in Warrington (UK). All the indigenous English women there froze as this word is not openly used by them as in London (a more multiracial environment) where I ‘picked’ up this expression for tiredness. They later explained its real meaning which is so different to London’s interpretation! May I say here that despite their explanation, I still can’t fully relate to the enormity of their reaction which I think is due to the fact that I was not raised from birth in the English culture and cannot therefore fully relate to this expression’s meaning as there is nothing like that in the language of the culture that I was raised in as a child.
7. Enabling our children to speak our language from birth help them to know their language thoroughly and not in a haphazard manner.
There are certain things you can say in one language that no amount of one’s knowledge of another language would help to fully express it like in its original language when the language has been learnt from childhood as mentioned above in the previous point (point 6). The issue now is that some of our young people (aged 16 – 25 years) nowadays do not understand or fully grasp simple proverbial sayings that they should have regularly come in contact with when they were between the age of 4 and 10 so that they would not be having problem with these now that they are in their teenage years. (Hopefully, things can still be turned around as we are now conscious of this issue).
8. Enabling our children to speak our language from birth will ensure they speak the language with the right intonation
It is important to emphasise this as a good reason as some parents are waiting for their children to grow up before they start to speak their African language which is wrong as these children end up speaking their parents language with a foreign intonation which I think is absurd as pressure is unknowingly been placed on these children to learn later what they ought to have acquired naturally from being exposed to so many speakers within their language environment.
I believe that it is not always easy to acquire the correct intonation for a language one’s someone is above certain age as shown by the clip below of Nathan Lugo, An American Puerto Rican who speaks Yoruba fluently with the right and perfect intonation. This not common no matter how much one tries. Nathan Lugo claimed he started learning when he was young and he apparently immersed himself in the language later by living and learning with the indigenous people in order for him to have acquired such perfect intonation.
9. When you speak and allow your children to speak your language you inadvertently help to promote your language for others to want to learn
This is so true and can be evidenced as there are so many videos on YouTube and some also ‘flying’ around in WhatsApp where so many non Nigerians are showing off their knowledge of our languages which I think should make us proud and encourage us to embrace and speak our language more to our children which would inadvertently help to keep our languages alive.
Below is a video of our Ọọ̀ni of Ifẹ́, Ọba Adéyẹyè Ẹnitàn Ògúnwùsí, holding an interesting conversation with a white woman in Yoruba language.
10. Speaking one’s language helps one to become an expert (or almost) in one’s language and culture even if one is not able to write it.
Although writing one’s language does not make one an ‘expert’, speaking it does to an extent as one is able to explain the logic or reasoning behind certain words, expressions and actions and so on while being able to write it helps tremendously in this computer age and generation.
11. Enabling our children to speak our language protect them from being ‘sold’ or taken advantage of within their own community
Imagine people talking about someone in their presence without them knowing even though this person has always lived in this community with parents that speak the language, which may even be the predominant language in the area. How would anyone like that? If no one would, we better change our attitude to our language and ensure we speak our language to our children from birth so no one would take advantage of them.
12. Allowing our children to speak our language helps to eliminate fake pride and self-importance
which prevails at the moment among some of our young people as some have equated their inability to speak our language as a thing of pride and importance!
13. Our children’s brain power is boosted or increased
The act of ensuring our children speak our language from birth while learning to speak our country’s lingua Franca is considered to help them increase their brain power. You can click here to read further on this.
14. It helps the children to become more humane and sympathetic towards the plight of the society rather than distancing themselves from it
as some of these young people seem to be doing now as mentioned above (see point 12).
15. Allowing our children to speak our language at home and around us shows them we have respect and love for ourselves…
our society and our GOD who made us who we are.
I believe there is still time to turn things around if we really truly want to individually which would impact us all collectively!