Foreign languages ​​are ahead of mother tongues

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LOME, Togo

African language experts are realizing that the lack of school reading materials in local languages ​​is increasingly sounding the death knell for mother tongues.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the eve of World Mother Language Day celebrated on Sunday, experts and activists across Africa said they were trying to reconnect people with their mother tongues.

Out of 6,000 languages ​​in the world, Africa contributes 2,000 languages. According to UNESCO, nearly 3,000 languages ​​are threatened with extinction because 40% of the inhabitants do not have access to education in a language they understand.

Cameroonian activist Flavien Anicet Bilongo, who promotes reading and the promotion of local languages, said people no longer speak in their mother tongue. He said that even parents prefer to speak to their children in foreign languages.

“Children also prefer to respond in French, even when addressed in their mother tongue,” he said.

In Burkina Faso, Youssouf Diallo, president of the Association of Young Promoters of Finaatawaa – a language and culture promotion group – said the mother tongue has been taken out of lessons even in some universities.

“We also noticed that once young people enter higher education, they abandon their mother tongues thinking they are archaic and prefer to speak foreign languages ​​like English or French. It’s really a shame” , he told Anadolu Agency.

Attributing this attitude to colonization, Diallo said that the love for a foreign language comes from the occupation mentality and they start to believe that foreign languages ​​are better than their local languages ​​and are a guarantee for the future. .

“Many students do not see the importance and the purpose of learning their mother tongue. The young people we meet find them useless, it is ignorance,” he said.

A Zimbabwe-based political scientist, Justice Simango, who is leading a similar campaign, said people no longer feel proud to speak their mother tongue. He said English had replaced local languages ​​in homes and schools.

“Globalization and social media are also driving Africans away from their mother tongue. For example, to integrate certain communities, you have to pass English tests. Thus, the practice of a foreign language becomes a tool for greater success than mastering the local language,” he said.

The indifference of African governments

An African language activist of Ivorian origin Mandjou Camara, who promotes the Nko alphabet, which belongs to the Malian languages, fears the imminent disappearance of African languages. He said people need to realize that learning in native languages ​​enriches knowledge and understanding of technology.

“An alphabet like the one I teach can not only help us promote our languages ​​but also revive the science and technology that once existed in Africa,” he said.

He accused African governments of abandoning their local languages ​​by not recognizing them as their national languages.

“It’s because they still consider colonial agreements that require languages ​​like French or English,” he said.

Camara is also working on structuring Alphabet Nko as part of a curriculum transcription project in Guinea, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire to enable children to understand the curriculum in their local languages.

He added that a country cannot fully develop using a foreign language.

“Our basic laws are written in foreign languages ​​that people don’t know at all. Illiteracy rates are very high in some countries,” he said.

In Burkina Faso, Diallo said learning different languages ​​should be encouraged, but imposing them as alternatives to mother tongues stunts development. He said that world powers have imposed their languages ​​and cultures.

He traveled all over Burkina Faso to teach Fufulde, his mother tongue, to people by organizing associative and cultural activities.

Ekwala Eyango Ebule Ebele, chief of the Duala ethnic group in Cameroon, called on other traditional chiefs to join and preserve their languages ​​by establishing schools in their respective areas. He said chat rooms in native languages ​​should be created.

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