WE claim to be proud of our culture and heritage, and also about the fact that we have over 800 plus languages.
So why do we put so much focus on the English language?
It does not belong to us, nor to our ancestors.
Don’t get me wrong.
Learning English is very important.
English is the language of global communication, ie, it is a widely used medium of communication between persons of different tongues.
It is the official language of 53 countries, including PNG.
It is also the dominant language in the business sector, and the internet wouldn’t be as helpful if one was not literate in English.
Most textbooks, journals and research papers are written in English, most dissemination channels like social media and the international press are in English, etc.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that our own languages are sub-par, and they should not be treated as such.
One other fact I would like to bring across is that your proficiency of the English language is not directly proportional to your intellectual prowess.
In other words, just because someone can speak and write better English does not mean he ore she is smarter.
To put things into perspective, 13-year-old Americans can speak far better English than most of the working-class Papua New Guineans.
Do you think that means those kids can replace our workers?
Of course not.
Being literate in the English language is not a requirement for success either.
Case in point, many local businessmen that I know about do not even have a grade 8 certificate.
Their English is very poor, some nonexistent, but their life is a success story.
Too much significance is put on English and our own languages are slowly being degraded and forgotten.
Ask any Papua New Guinean living in the city and most will tell you they don’t like hearing native languages being spoken in public, they will say, “mipla no stap lo ples”(we are not in the village).
That’s a very ignorant and stupid attitude that these supposed intellectuals have towards our culture.
I think awareness should be carried out to educate the general public about the importance of our own languages.
You Papua New Guinean parents owe it to your forefathers to teach your kids their mother tongue.
Be proud of where you’re from, name your kids in your own dialect.
Biblical names will not get you to heaven, no more than anglicized names will make you white.
Plus, I cringe every time I see Papua New Guineans with names like Napoleon, Nostrodamus, Gadaffi, Iceman, Pascal, Vladimir, Wolfgang, Boyka, Einstein, etc. Thank God I’m not related to them.
Furthermore, having 800 plus native languages in this small island country is very unique and that is something we should do more than just be proud of. I’m sure we have linguists in this great nation of ours and if it hasn’t been done yet, the government should consider employing them to record and preserve the 800 plus languages we have while the native speakers are still breathing.