The use of indigenous languages in African households is slowly fading with parents embracing foreign languages. Many homes on the African Continent still and deliberately don’t speak their local languages to their children. It is surprising that parents who both come from the same ethnic group do not speak their indigenous language to their children, and this is the reason why many local languages in Sierra Leone are slowly fading away. An estimated 2,000 languages are spoken across the African continent, but in educational institutions, English, French, German, Portuguese and recently Chinese, are the major languages. In a presentation recently made by Nigerian born author, Ngozi Adichie at an International conference on heritage and languages, she noted that many Africans embrace foreign languages at the expense of local languages, which she said is as a result of “colonialism which made us look down on everything that is African. This includes our languages, cultures and religions”. She says the promotion of African languages lacks the backing from governments and citizens themselves. In Sierra Leone students are offered to read African Studies at the Institute of African Studies at FBC, but what is the medium of language the course is offered, when Krio is the mother tongue of most children and adults, across the country. “The discussion is still on how African languages can become a medium of Instruction in Institutions of higher learning across the continent, as compared to the increasingly opting for education through English or French, which is the second or third language of most learners who attend these Institutions”, Adichie noted. Adichie revealed that the only language she speaks to her 2-year old daughter is Igbo, and it was a deliberate decision that was cautiously taken in order to make her child realize who she is and not to forget her African roots and culture.
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A Sierra Leonean academic explained that though English is our official language and internationally recognized, there is nothing wrong to shun or deprive our children from knowing who they are and where they belong, which is through their local dialect. The answer and argument given by Prof. Kaschula on why African languages are sidelined in Institutions of higher learning is as a result that citizens don’t embrace and be proud of their language which is their identity. Linguistic research has also proven that a child can learn up to five languages when growing up. Countries such as South Africa, through its constitution have empowered the use of African languages but these languages are still peripheral in academia.
By Ade Campbell
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