Phylis Ngirita’s public outcry about her son forgetting how to speak German and only speaking Kikuyu, Kiswahili, and English attracted the attentions of many Kenyans.
Ngirita breaking down outside the Milimani Law Courts went viral and of course Kenyans came up with memes, hilarious comments, and sarcastic posts online. The Ngirita family is accused of their involvement in the NYS sandal that robbed Kenyans millions of shillings, and their bank accounts are frozen.
When did we get comfortable with the notion that African languages are inferior to foreign languages such as English, French, German, and Spanish? It is a shame. Our local languages are fantastic, and we should be proud.
We might condemn Ngirita for degrading Kenyan languages, but the truth is some of us have the same mindset as hers. Some parents force their kids to speak English even when at home. Pupils are punished for speaking Kiswahili and local language in schools. A specific day is set aside for them to use Kiswahili. We have a problem.
Remember when the ministry of education recommended that mother tongue be taught in primary schools? It was a challenging idea for schools in urban areas considering they have pupils of all tribes, but we have time to teach kids French and German for example. Besides, there are parents who do not teach their children their mother tongue, yet they can speak it fluently.
International languages are good and come in handy when applying for certain jobs or traveling to a foreign country. However, they are not superior to our Gikuyu, Dholuo, Kikamba, Kiluhya, and Kalenjin languages, among others.
We should be proud of having a country with over 40 tribes speaking different dialects. It is a beautiful setting. The English, German, American, and French only have one local language. We have wazungus abroad studying African languages and translating different materials.
People are making money from their fluency in of local languages as translators and media personalities in vernacular media stations. Ngugi wa Thiongo is a Kenya author who has won international literary awards for promoting African languages.
It is high time we taught our kids to be proud of our local languages, and learn them before mastering international languages. Just because Africa was colonized and our ancestors had to learn foreign languages such as French and English, which became national languages for our countries, does not mean we demean our very own languages. We are better than that.