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Why your children should know their native language

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
14 May 2022   |   2:18 am
Having your child speak his native language gives them a proper identity and helps them stand out. In our world today where English has become the only source of communication especially amongst our children, ensuring that they have an understanding ...

Having your child speak his native language gives them a proper identity and helps them stand out. In our world today where English has become the only source of communication especially amongst our children, ensuring that they have an understanding of their dialect gives them the confidence needed in life.

According to Chimmie Gbugu who is actively teaching her kids Igbo in America, through Akwukwo LLC an EduTech company which is on a mission to igborizetm children using fun, effective, globally accessible, and relatable resources, her name is the foremost way her native language, Igbo, has both defined and made her stand out.

“I recall primary and secondary school teachers, in Nigeria, pausing to either admire my full name – Chimhurumnanya – or to ask what my parents were thinking. Well, they were thinking that ‘My God Loves Me’ hence, giving me the literal gem of a name.”

Embracing the full meaning of my name and being grounded in my heritage has been instrumental in my personal development. As I continue to balance aspects of my culture with my preferences, the value of exposure to one’s language and origin remains starkly obvious.

The mother of three said that everyone has a deep need to belong. It may not be apparent to those of us that grew up knowing our roots however this phenomenon becomes obvious if or when you observe adults that don’t know their heritage.

Some say adults, pay a fortune to discover their origin and then proceed with learning about their culture at a late age. Unfortunately, inevitable ‘adulting’ priorities tend to render some of their efforts futile as shelter, feeding, education, etc. take precedence over cultural learning.

She noted that parents have the ultimate power to save their offspring from future uncertainty and turmoil by integrating cultural awareness during childhood.

“In my opinion, children should be grounded in their heritage early on as it will help them navigate life better as adults. Truly knowing where they’re from, would help them boldly determine their future direction.

“The core of every culture is undeniably language; it helps people understand their cultural thought process. So, the ability to understand and verbalize one’s language is a gateway to further grasping other aspects of their tradition.”

The tech expert further said, “I have observed kids light up a room, with their smile, after successfully forming an Igbo sentence. The instant gratification of course propels them to keep going and presents an opportunity for parents, and guardians, to patiently nurture their child’s budding fluency in Igbo or their respective native language. This would help minimise the communication gap observed between kids returning to their hometown, from the diaspora, and some family members.

“Besides being able to communicate with family and friends in their mother tongue, bilingual and multi-lingual children utilise more brain cells than others. The skills obtained from translating words help them think more critically and position them better, educationally. Children can learn up to five languages in parallel. Which means that your native tongue would not confuse your child in the long-run and can be learned alongside other non-native languages.”

Gbugu added, “I strongly encourage parents to ground their offspring in their heritage regardless of where they reside. Start with teaching them their core language in parallel with exposing them to the native food, clothing, and music.

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