By: Poelano Malema
21 February marks International Mother Language Day and highlights the importance of preserving culture through speaking one’s mother tongue.
According to ethnologue.com, there are more than 7,000 spoken languages in the world. South Africa alone is blessed with eleven official languages. They are Sepedi (also known as Sesotho sa Leboa), Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, and isiZulu.
Sadly, as more people become bilingual and seek to learn a more prestigious language to gain social and economic advantages or to avoid discrimination, they can lose their own languages.
According to gov.za, one language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.
Recently, veteran actress Florence Masebe took to Twitter to complain about African languages not being properly spoken by actors.
There was a time when we had language advisors on every production. But I guess ke ka nako eane ea nta le tshitshidi when people actually cared. Jwale dintho di fetohile. Re bua seMxit.
— Mme a Masakona (@FloMasebe) February 2, 2021
Encouraging speaking your mother tongue in the home
Parents have a responsibility to preserve their culture and teach their children their mother tongue.
Teaching your children how to speak in their mother tongue helps them to stay connected to their cultural roots.
Tips to help you promote your mother tongue in the home:
– Speak the language as much as possible.
– Read and encourage your children to read books written in their mother tongue.
– Watch movies that are in the mother tongue.
– Put labels around the house.
– Teach your children to take pride in their mother tongue.