ORDINARY CITIZEN'S NOTES. 20 FEB 2015. FRI. N1.
Mother language and more.
Mother language and more.
Why the United Nations needed to institute the International Mother Language Day in 1999 is both a reminder to do things right and a signal to account our gains.
Sixteen years after, we are still celebrating the IMLD.
This reminder is simple enough: mother language counts.
And it counts because there is no way we can ever shortchange our educatees by making them aware of the world around them by using a language that is not theirs.
This leads us to the celebratory nature of the IMLD.
The assumption is that when everyone’s mother language has been recognized and respected, there shall no longer be the need to single out a day in February—every 21st of this month—and have this day reserved for making all of us aware that language counts in the education of our young.
Here, we insist: it is not just any language. It is their first, indigenous, native, or mother language.
‘Mother’ here is not mother per se, but a concept to mean source from which all acts of knowing come.
Which means simply that this language in which our educatees are born is that source through which they get to understand the world around them for the first time, and that first time ought to continue uninterrupted for their understanding to make sense.
Which means that through that source language, our educatees get to understand the other aspects of that world, or perhaps other worlds.
Or perhaps other experiences they have not known in the beginning.
The sounds and words and concepts—all these that constitute our educatees’ first language—are the requisites through which the first act of learning happens.
When those sounds and words and concepts are dismissed because our educatees need to learn another language not their own, the subtle dance of deception comes about even if we call it nationalism or some other brutal logic we resort to justify our bad educational aims.
The Education For All is unequivocal on the value of mother language.
When mother language is not used, the attainment of the EFA goals becomes a case of an educational abracadabra.
It is a pure ruse in numbers without substance that when we are not looking, it could be passed off as gains by governments that do not know any better.
Which leads us to the context of IMLD when a country is multilingual, and thus, multicultural as in the case of the Philippines.
For decades, we had gone the wrong way in instituting bilingual education for the wrong reasons and the wrong methods.
Ours was a long history of language miseducation under the guise of nationalism with no memory and with no heart.
What the educational apparatus of the state did is to impose a philosophically and cognitively unsound educational practice of making the educatees learn in a national language based on one of the languages of the country, and another foreign language.
The first is to express patriotism, the second to communicate with the world.
These are two good reasons.
But the means to attaining these were through languages not the child’s, not the educatee’s, not the learner’s.
Do we need IMLD?
Until we have not done the right thing in teaching all our young through their mother language, we ought to have IMLD each year.
And no less.