"Our children have the inherent right to be educated in their home language." - Dr. Nolasco, chairman, National Language Commission
Continuation of Dr. Nolasco's essay on languages: The best way to put down any language is by preventing it from being used in the educational system. Children bring their home and community's language to school, only to have the bilingual system extinguish them.
The favorite formula is to impose fines or punish students for speaking their home language. It is in school where our children come to know that their language is not important and therefore cannot be reproduced. Only the nationally prescribed languages and the knowledge encoded in them matter.
The usual reasons against using the home languages in school are that it allegedly promotes disunity and that it is impractical because we have so many "dialects". Disunity results when there is no respect for each other's cultures and languages.
We can learn a thing or two from Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world with more than 800 languages. But this did not deter that nation from developing literacy materials in a third of its languages toeducate its people. If they can do it, why can't we?
What indeed should be done to correct this iniquitous situation?A first and crucial step is to change our attitudes towards our languages. Let us look at our local languages not as liabilities but as resources which we can harness to educate society and improve lives. We need a national language much as we need our local languages and the languages of wider communication (i.e. English, Spanish).
Through these languages, we gain a local identity, a national identity and a global identity. They help us to think globally, and act locally. The indigenous knowledge systems stored in the local languages also complement our knowledge of Western science and technology.
his integrated knowledge ensures that any development resulting from it will be sustainable and friendly to the ecosystem. Our children have the inherent right to be educated in their home language. The home languages and local cultures have been found to be enabling factors to learning in the content areas. They also serve as twoway bridges to learning other languages.
A learner gains self-respect when his experiences and the language in which they are expressed are acknowledged. The child can then build from this knowledge, add new concepts and learn more remote and abstract ideas. At the same time, our people should be given the opportunity to learn the national language and the other languages of wider communication like English. They should be allowed to explore into the exciting opportunities that the national and global economy has to offer.
Linguistic diversity does not mean that indigenous cultures must remain unchanged. By valuing their first and second languages, our people regains control of their environment and their inalienable right to exist.