Elder fears loss of mother tongue

Weekender

By MARJORIE FINKEO
SOME communities in PNG today speak introduced common languages and the loss of their very own mother tongues soon is a real worry.
“Don’t you sometimes wonder that in a few years’ time your mother tongue or language will die out in the village?” a chief in Rigo, Central asks.
Vaigi Sarua, 83, from Anahadabu village, Boreberi clan Rigo district, Central says he has been observing the current generation and it worries him to see that they cannot speak their mother tongue or first language but Tok Pisin and English are becoming their first language in their homes and everyday communication.
They are doing what linguists label as code switching.
Code switching, in linguistics, is using two languages during a communication where, for instance a speaker uses his mother tongue to speak to his child while the child understands it but can only reply using a common language like Tok Pisin.
Wikipedia explains it thus: “Code-switching occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation. Multilinguals, speakers of more than one language, sometimes use elements of multiple languages when conversing with each other.”
And this seems to be the norm in every household in Papua New Guinea nowadays.
“I am sad that one day when I leave my grandchildren and the generation behind me will not know my language because it has not been passed on yet. Trying to teach others is very difficult,” Sarua says.
He says a long while back a translator from Australia went into his village to do a survey on languages and they never were given any feedback from that survey; he only heard of a dictionary made in their tokples.
He wants parents today to seriously teach their children their mother tongue at home when they are small before they go to school where they are exposed to western ways of life. Parents are simply not taking the responsibility to teach their children to speak their languages.
Language dies when people die with it without teaching others.
“Even many of my children can’t even put a proper structure of my tokples to speak it to their children,” Sarua laments.
Polis Motu has become the popular language in every home in the village and throughout other neighbouring villages. Some same dialects have dramatically changed when speakers use words to suit their environment, the food they eat and beliefs they have.
Translation has become very difficult for everyone in the village where children can only speak one language common in every homes which is Polis Motu,
He says Motu is becoming the common language in the society where everyone can understand and speak it and not their own language.
Sarua and his 75-year-old wife Iori Imisi have six children, 18 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They appear to have a few more years ahead of them.
The couple had served as deacons of the United Church in Anahadabu, Koiari Circuit for more than a decade.
He said the day he had stood on the forest floor near his village not knowing where to go when airplanes were flying past as he saw his parents running to hide.
He recalled that he was about seven years old when he witnessed the events of WW II.
Part of their mountains and forest tops had been flying zones of war planes from dawn to dusk.

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