Bits of ME
‘I am so disappointed Mummy, I am so disappointed…,” my two and half year-old son at the time had responded after a reprimand about something.
Seemingly upset, he had broken into tears and innocently uttered his misgivings.
With my re-battle cocked, in that second, I was disarmed: My mouth hang open, body motionless. Yet, my brain raced backwards into my past.
I could not speak English until about primary four or five; meaning by then, that word would never have surfaced in my vocabulary.
The young Mable Twegumye Zake, hearing a new word for the first time would have run as fast as her legs could carry her and pick up the ‘big book’ (that’s what I called it) my favourite then; Longman Dictionary of contemporary English
This little boy of mine who hadn’t even started school yet, was using this adjective
Questions lingered from within: how on earth did he conjure up dis‧ap‧point‧ed
While I was excited and proud that our child was picking up the queen’s English way earlier and faster than I did, his father and I had disregarded his mother tongue to which he couldn’t speak a single word of it at all.
It was the visits to my parents that brought me back to ‘civilization’. My father, no fun of ‘importing’ foreign language, sprayed fear of ‘our children missing out on their mother tongue’
Bits Of YOU
It appears to me I am not alone (you may be guilty too)
Then, lets ponder on the fate of our local languages by shining a light on how deeply we’re entrenched in our children learning the mother tongue.
Some children are unable to speak their mother or father’s languages because a good number are urban groomed where popular lingua is assumed more fashionable.
Ruth Mukama a Professor of Linguistics says, parents confine them to English usage.
“Leaders and the elite believe…English alone in the households prepares their children for success in education and subsequent careers,” Mukama said.
While for others caught in tribal intermarriages, English becomes the common language for obvious reasons.
English as a global player, traps minds in the sense of ‘the prestigious tool for communication’. Square that with the ‘pale look’ our indigenous languages are viewed, and know we have a deep sore at the skin of our cultures.
Mukama explains that with that lost, the children lack an enabling environment to develop their creative abilities spontaneously.
“… like the art of narration or storytelling, communication through music, proverbs and riddles remain an integral part of these languages”.
The antidote may just be simple: learning to co-exist with the dominant player (English): between English and the indigenous languages it is not a question of either/or, rather, it is a case of complementarity
The recitation done in classrooms in English merely constructs individuals into robots with the ‘art of talking without feelings. That is why Ugandans easily blurt out many things in English which they would otherwise find difficult to say in an indigenous language. Why? Because the indigenous languages touch one’s morals and propriety chords in a way that English can never do.
Yet, the indigenous languages cannot successfully dislodge English either for international communication or for educational purposes at higher levels. The compromise for us is complementarity: Are indigenous languages ready to accept to share territory with the monster (English)?
Surely, we already lost yards in our own backyard, so, co-existing is not a cowardly ACT.