Embrace your mother tongue: iLIVE
The article 'African languages languish, while one organ stands tall' (27 May 2012), makes for some interesting reading.
The author has correctly observed that we, the black middle class, look down on our indigenous languages.
This is a very disturbing trend considering the fact that it comes at a time when our country is supposed to be a maturing, if not mature, democracy. While the growth of the black middle class itself is an achievement we all can be proud of, the attitude of these individuals towards their vernacular is retrograde.
Many times I have been puzzled by (black) parents who take pride in the fact that their offspring speaks fluent English while they cannot construct a sentence in their mother tongue.
Part of the problem here is that children are not seen for what they are anymore: they are treated as accessories through which previously disadvantaged individuals are trying to make a statement ("we have arrived"). This is to the detriment of the child, who loses out on the values and wisdom conveyed through the mother tongue.
Another problem is our basic education system. Whenever I go to school to fetch my children’s reports the teachers encourage that I speak English with my children at home. I find this quite offensive. Firstly, I don’t think the school has any say on the formulation of the language policy in my household. Secondly, this assumes that in order for our children to excel in English, they have to abandon other languages. In essence, this implies that their learning capacity is quite limited.
On a much deeper level, the attitude of some of the black middle class towards indigenous languages can be attributed to our past.
The institution of apartheid sought to relegate black people (and their languages) to a position of inferiority while exalting white people and their languages. It is disheartening to notice that, while we have established institutions that uphold the ideals of a democratic society, most of our black brethren and sisters are subconsciously subscribing to the principles of apartheid and colonisation.
One of the ideals of democracy is equal opportunity. As a society, we need to support the idea of equal representation for our official languages. Blade Nzimande made a courageous call to make it compulsory for university students to take one African language. But much of the fight can be won by encouraging black South Africans to practice self-love while embracing diversity.
We need to be proud of who we are and instil this pride on our children. We owe it to the class of 1976 and those who paid with their lives for our freedom. By insisting that our children communicate only in English, we are inadvertently and regrettably limiting their thinking capacity.