22 February 2014

THE ROLE AND BENEFITS OF MOTHER LANGUAGES (For International Mother Language Day)

Guest Writer: Adegbite Adebimpe

Image Credit: all-images
There are many definitions of a Mother Language, otherwise referred to as 'Mother Tongue', but a simple one is “the local language of one’s local or otherwise, indigenous environment”.

Mother Language does not come into question but for the classification of language into other categories such as Second Language (reason because, save for few exceptions, Mother Language is always the first language), Foreign Language etc. Well, languages fall into different categories not because the languages determine their ‘fate’ but because other factors (basically non-linguistic) influence the position and relevance of each language. These factors include: quest for socio-economic relevance, technological progress, and religion, amongst others. It should be noted that language, on a broad note, gives relevance to every individual in terms of status and pedigree. The importance of language can therefore be examined from the perspectives of how it enhances the global status of an individual, or how it aids the optimum comprehension of other languages that enhance such status. All languages, however, preserve the culture, norms and integrity of its original and native users or owners.

Image Credit: national-awareness-days
I will therefore examine the Mother Language first from its role as a ‘preservative’. The only means of communication between humans is language (verbal and non-verbal); as language is being formed gradually, the culture, norms and beliefs of the people are coded into it, and so it systematically becomes a key carrier of their social relevance. Natives of that culture who fail to acquire the language-willingly or unknowingly, lose a key part of their cultural and Social identity/relevance. Such people become quite faceless, identity-wise, and rely on other cultures to cover for their ignorance of the relevance of their language. The acquisition of one’s Mother Language is therefore a key to the authenticity of his identity and the originality of his beliefs.

It is worthy to note that these languages do not have the power to impose themselves in position of global relevance; their powers do not go beyond the indigenous level, which even in the present time is limited. ‘Fate’ has, by providence, made some languages 'fortunate' over others on the ‘world relevance scale’; the ‘unfortunate’ languages which are considered 'lesser' have no choice but to concede to the global economic, social, or political relevance of the few ‘fortunate’ languages. These other ‘lesser’ languages have thus been ‘elevated’ to the position of facilitating the acquisition of the few ‘fortunate’ languages for the native speakers of such ‘lesser’ languages. For example, French as a language places on a higher level on the ‘global relevance ladder’ than a typical ‘Igede’ of the Igede people of Benue state in Nigeria. Both languages are, however, Mother Languages of their respective speakers.

Image Credit: all-images
While it is pretty easy for the native speakers of the ‘fortunate’ languages to gain communicative competence in them, non-native speakers are faced with the dilemma of comprehending the language(s) or losing social relevance/value in the global world. However, for this category of people, their Mother Languages provide a ready ‘plate’ for the facilitation of competence in the target ‘fortunate’ language. The competence and familiarity with Mother Languages ensure the ease in the comprehension of non-Mother Languages; it’s like gradually moving from the known to the unknown; there is no better journey than this.

Asides all these, the Psychological feeling of acquiring one’s Mother Language is that which is ‘ego-boosting’ for the few who are able to acquire full competence especially in ‘minority’ Mother Languages; and not for the majority who ignorantly run away from their Mother Languages to gain competence in those of others. These never attain competence, unfortunately, in any language.

Adegbite Adebimpe is a student of English Language and Literary Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

No comments:

Post a Comment