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
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
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
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.