Researchers observe that language is what makes people humans; a dynamic integral part of culture and a constituent part of human civilisation.
Similarly, linguists often argue that languages become extinct due to globalisation, politics, economic influence and neocolonialism, among other reasons.
They emphasise that there might be extinction of some languages if there are no more known native speakers of the language, especially if the language has no living descendants.
According to them, a language is endangered when speakers decide that it is better for their children’s future to acquire language they believe it is tied to economic success, such as English language.
With this attitude, researchers note that almost half of the languages known today could go to extinction in future.
In Nigeria, for instance, preservation of mother languages as a cultural heritage receives little attention, analysts argue.
They observe that the younger generation does not have deep knowledge of their language culture to understand the need to appreciate their mother language as a tool for deepening cultural values.
In the light of this, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), observes that 29 local languages in Nigeria are endangered and the number will increase except deliberate efforts are made to address the situation.
For the United Nations, International Mother Language Day, celebrated on every Feb. 21, recognises that languages play a vital role in development in ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.
In the last edition of the day, the theme focused on: “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities’’.
UNESCO, during the observance of the day, expressed worry that “linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear globally’’.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay therefore calls on countries to defend linguistic and cultural diversity, observing that 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand.
According to her, four out of 10 children worldwide do not have access to education in the language they speak or understand best; meaning the foundation for their learning is more fragile.
“From the very first day of school, many schoolchildren have the ambivalent experience of discovering one language – and the world of ideas which comes with it – and forgetting another one: the language they have known since infancy.
“This distancing from the mother tongue affects us all, for linguistic diversity is a common good and the protection of linguistic diversity is a duty’’, she said.
Azoulay notes that every language has a certain rhythm, as well as a certain way of approaching things and thinking of them.
“Learning or forgetting a language is thus not merely about acquiring or losing a means of communication. It is about seeing an entire world either appear or fade away,’’ she observes.
Azoulay says the International Mother Language Day would begin to give new momentum to protecting indigenous languages.
Ms Andriamiseza Noro, an education programme specialist in UNESCO, also believes that technology has the power to address some of the biggest challenges in education and language acquisition.
Some stakeholders, therefore, call on parents, school systems and government to adopt approaches that will inculcate cultural values in the society, especially on children.
A linguist in Jos, Mr Audu Silas, notes mother languages in addition to the three major Nigerian languages should be included in school curriculum, especially the basic education system.
He advises that the elites in the society ought to contribute towards developing their mother languages to salvage them from extinction.
He observes that this can be done through engaging scholars for outreaches, translating literature materials or books in their languages while using Information Communication Technologies.
He also states that stakeholders, especially the elderly, should organise campaigns to preserve cultural heritage by promoting transmission of their language to the younger generation.
Silas observes further that inferiority complex among speakers of minority languages has affected speaking some indigenous languages, insisting that no language is superior to others.
He calls on the National Orientation Agency, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, National Council for Arts and Culture and other cultural institutions, to educate the public against stereotyping people because of their languages.
A mother in Jos, Ms Fatima Adamu, cautions parents against insisting on speaking English language to their children and neglecting their mother languages even in mixed marriages.
“Some children even do not speak their mother language in spite their parents being from the same ethnic group; so, deliberate effort by parents is required to teach their children their mother language,’’ she notes.
Also, the chairman of the Parent Teachers Association of Nigeria in Plateau, Mr Tali Danjuma, notes that negligence by parents has been a factor affecting the learning of mother languages.
“Most parents have been making that mistake once they relocate to a particular place maybe they leave their village; they use a different language such as English language and with time, they will not be able to communicate freely with their own mother tongues.
“Please, help the future generation to understand their languages, cultural heritage to stop modern languages in the country from going to extinction,’’ he pleads.
In her observation, Mrs Kaneng Gbadamosi, a research student with the University of Jos, says videos and audio material should be adopted in the teaching of Nigerian languages as some textbooks may not give much in their teaching.
“If there are literatures, videos and audios, it will help. You will find out that the missionaries who came to Nigeria learned local languages with learning aids and were able to speak Nigerian languages; yet some of us do not speak the languages,’’ she observes.
Analysts hope that the society will reflect on UNESCO’s directives on making deliberate efforts to salvage mother languages from extinction.
They also call on language experts and stakeholders to take advantage of the potential of technology for learning mother languages.
They believe that complying with the UNESCO’s guidelines on how to save indigenous languages from extinction will underscore the importance of International Mother Language Day celebrated annually since 2000 to raise awareness on language, cultural diversity and multilingualism around the world.(NANFeatures)