The importance of speaking to your children in your mother tongue

young african family sitting outdoors

It is understandable that parents want their children to be able to communicate in English but that should not be at the expense of your home language.

By Zukiswa Dlamini 

Pretoria based counsellor Lesego Naheng says most parents are taking their children to schools where English is the primary langue which has resulted in children losing the ability to speak their mother tongue. “It’s a huge tragedy”, he says.

But this can be rectified. Here’s how:

1. Build a foundation. Some parents think it’s ‘fancy’ for their kids to not speak an African language and see it as a status symbol because the ability to speak English has always been associated with being educated. Since language is a part of culture and identity, not teaching your children their mother tongue can be a major disadvantage in the long run.

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2. Language challenges. Children always want to fit in. At school they will speak English if it’s the primary language, but once they go home to visit family that speaks in mother tongue they can struggle to communicate. At home you can speak to your child in your mother tongue even if they respond in English.

3. Empower your kids. Being multilingual allows your child to communicate with more people, and opens up their world. Buy your children literature written in your language, teach them to do basic reading in your language and from time to time make them tune into shows that are in your language.

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4. Instill pride. It’s important to make your children proud of all things African, this is something that is often neglected. In a world where blackness is not celebrated, it’s important for your child to know that being black is worthy.