Which one will it be?

‘Don’t speak vernacular! You must speak English all the time!’ You have heard such numerous times at school but now increasingly at home too or wherever the parents or guardians are with their children. Speaking your local language is not ’cool’ at all apparently.

Fast forward, when the children get to school, they love to associate with anything foreign including the culture and perspective of the chosen lifestyle. On several occasions I have asked students where they come from and their answer was, “I am from Belgium, Australia or America.” And these are children who are clearly Africans with a rich African heritage coursing through their blood but no, they are not Africans.

But who is to blame if right from the start their parents insist that a foreign language is better than their native language? Although this may not always be the case, the above-mentioned category of students sadly may not be able to master any of the languages to proficiency levels. Neither their mother tongue nor the adopted foreign language allows them to express themselves competently as they may not have mastered the basics of each sufficiently. 

While in other countries like India, the local languages are very much encouraged to be used not only at their homes but also in public places. Using your local language fosters a sense of identity and pride in one’s origin. Speaking your language implies you recognise that your ancestors were wise enough to come up with a communication system that has stood the test of time, keeping the people’s knowledge, understanding of things richly embedded in the seemingly meaningless sounds.

On the other hand, proponents of using foreign language like English and French argue that what is the point of speaking a native language when to access some opportunities like further education abroad you will need to reveal your proficiency levels by doing tests like IELTS, TOEFL , SATs and a battery of others. 

Research indicates that those students who are constantly speaking their vernacular are also using the same thinking patterns in their languages and end up finding it difficult to switch their language patterns to the English language way of expressing of ideas. Consequently, they fail these English proficiency tests and end up having to redo them, several times so as to hit the required mark.

Generally speaking, taking time to learn  languages is crucial, because no knowledge is wasted, the knowledge will come in very useful in whichever way. So it is really up to you to decide how and when to use it.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com