The Place of Mother Tongue in an Ever Changing Fast-Placed Environment.

Contributor: Dr. Meg Opara
External Advisor, Freed Capitals

Date: 23rd April, 2023.

Every language in the world is a particular people’s mother tongue which is indigenous to the people. In other words, all languages are peculiar to their original owners. People’s technology flourishes and prospers with the help of their own language. As the entire world is turning into a global hub, people embrace changes and innovations, and both language and technology advance.

In an ever changing fast paced environment, technology here refers to the methods, systems and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge that are being raised for practical purposes in man’s life. Many African nations are tagged underdeveloped and developing because they are scientifically and technological backward. In fact, it is said that a good percentage of Africans are technophobes as they do not understand the language of science and technology and are therefore afraid to embrace such. For African nations to break this technophobia which has constituted a barrier, the mother tongue as a medium of instruction must never be trivialized in the educational system.

Obviously, it is through the mother tongue education that technological knowledge can be stepped down to the larger populace. President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania tried it and it worked out for them using Swahili, an indigenous language and their mother tongue.

The accelerated advancement experienced in technology is surely one of the greatest organized and creative achievements of humanity in this contemporary time. The way the society we live functions today is a manifestation of the advances. However, the origin of technology dates to the beginning of civilized existence. It is instructive to note that almost all giant nations of the world emerged because of their mother tongue system of education from the cradle to the peak not in a foreign language such as America, China, Japan, Britain. From the early 16th century, scientists such as early Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Albert Einstein, John Dalton, among others, have been in the craft of technological advancement. These early scientists were concerned about primitiveness that had gradually engulfed the society in those days. Their curiosity and zeal for technology opened doors to new discoveries and theories courtesy of their mother tongue as a medium of communication.

Bacon (2015, p.55) observes that “human knowledge and human power are co-existence, for ignorance of causes prevents us from producing effects. Nature can only be ruled by being obeyed; for the causes which theory discovers, give the rules which practice applies”. Bacon’s words bring out the purpose of indigenous technology which anchors on the language of the immediate environment which in this case is the mother tongue otherwise called the vernacular in some contexts. This is targeted at discovering the laws of nature to widen human perspectives and understanding of the digital world, to increase the basis of man’s material existence, and to help him fight the physical and biological calamities that beset him in his progress through life.

For a people’s technology to advance and be sustained, their mother tongue must be put into use. This will help to translate whatever technological knowledge and experiences there are (no matter how foreign they may tend to be) into indigenous ones. (Ezikeojiaku, 2007, p.14).

According to Akidi (2014) “what one uses language to do is what he knows about that language. People usually think best and act best in their mother tongue. The above assertion corroborates the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which says that “we dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages --- by the linguistic systems in our minds”.

For instance, India, one of the developing nations of the world, has apparently gone ahead of her contemporaries in an ever changing fast paced environment in science, technology and engineering (STE).

In the recent past, India launched several space programmes to study the planet Mars, most of which have been tremendous and successful.

Another sector that has witnessed unprecedented transformation in India is agriculture. This is because of the introduction of mechanized agricultural practices made possible by the study of Agricultural Engineering. India has also risen to an enviable height in the “digital word”. Most of the softwares and applications used virtually by all information (ICT) devices are either designed or written by Indian coders (programmers). India is also a world leading manufacturer of drugs.

What can one say about Japan and China, both are known all over the globe as manufactures of electronics, and ICT devices. They are geniuses in telecommunications, computer engineering and electronics.

In the same vein, Germany is leading in STE especially in the production of automobiles and their spare parts- some brands such as Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Audi among others. To state the fact, Germany enjoys a wide currency of patronage because their products are virtually cherished world-wide.

Again in San Francisco and California in the USA, you can find the famous Silicon Valley where most applications and software are designed and written.

These myriads of accomplishments in the field of STE wouldn’t have been possible, were it not for the role these nation’s mother tongue education has played in those nations mentioned. It is axiomatic that the use of mother tongue enhances technological advancement and that is the hub of the success story in all the countries mentioned above and lots more that made their mother tongue the language of wider communication and instruction.

It is based on the relevance of mother tongue education for technological advancement that Aja (2008, p.6) stated that:
“The Chinese President once boasted to the American that it is only his country that can track down the highly electronic wave – directed missile defense (MD) system,
the secret rise in science and technology concealed in a conservative language structure”.

In all, since language is instrumental to technological advancements, it means that it will be practically impossible to record success if that language is not indigenous to the people.

Therefore, the best option to realize this all-important dream of technological knowledge is to encourage the implementation of mother tongue instruction.

References

Akidi, F. C (2014) “Polysemy in Osina Variety of Igbo’’ in Igbo Scholars-AN International Journal of Igbo Scholars forum. Awka: Nnamdi Azikiwe University pp.124-141

Aja, A (2008). ‘Language, Culture and Power Politics: Lessons for the promotion of Nigerian. Language and culture: a Realist analysis’ ‘in Journal of Nigerian languages and culture, Imo state University Owerri. Vol -10. (1)

Bacon, A (2015)’’ New Approaches to Innovation” in Science Teaching and Tomorrows Boston pp 54-59

Ezikeojiaku, P.A (2007),’’Indigenous language for Science and Technology” in language and literature in a Development country (Asinudu of al ads). Nsukka: First Publishers. Pp. 114-122