You, parents, priests, politicians and so-called ‘profeser’, GIANT P’S, do you really know what is happening and do you really care? You have been, are and, I am sure, will be wildly vociferous in your assessment of the catastrophic situation our schools are in. BUT do you know what you are talking about?
First of all, let us get clear definitions of the words we use:
Mother Tongue/Lang Maternel (First Language
Most of you think it means the language of your forebears, your ancestral language. WRONG! Let me illustrate with some elements of my own history. On my father’s side, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother were native speakers of what is today known as Telugu; on my mother’s side, I have always thought that there had been some form of early forced or willing miscegenation/metisaz – (some relatives are fair skinned while others are brown or plainly black. My father knew some basic Telugu but I cannot recall my mother’s use of this language. She grew up in Quartier Militaire, spoke a flowery idiomatic “Mauritian Creole (MC)”, sang Tifrer’s songs which I learnt from her. Both parents spoke to each other in MC. It could be argued that, to a certain extent, Telugu is my ancestral language while MC is definitely my mother tongue, the language I started to learn while still in my mother’s womb.
On creole languages
Creole is NOT the name of a language but that of a family of languages with specific characteristics. All creole languages are analytic NOT synthetic. Let us compare English, French and Latin to understand the difference:
WORD ORDER: Word order is vital for analytic languages whereas this is not always the case for synthetic languages.
Examples: I told him. (subject + verb + object); Je lui ai dit. (subject + object + verb). In Latin, a highly synthetic language, word order has little or no importance: ‘puer amat puellam’ (the boy loves the girl) has the same meaning as ‘amat puer puellam’ or ‘amat puellam puer’ or ‘puellam amat puer’ or ‘ puer puellam amat’ or puellam puer amat. In a synthetic language, word form changes to indicate meaning, not word order.
Examples: Puer/ the boy is subject; puerem / the boy is object. The girl loves the boy in Latin becomes ‘puella amat puerem’ or ‘amat puerem puella’ or etc.
WORD FORMS: in synthetic languages a word may have several forms to show grammatical case, number and gender. A French adjective may have up to 5 forms as in the case of “beau, bel, belle, beaux and belles”. In English and Mauritian adjectives keep the same form: beautiful country/ zoli pei; beautiful woman/ zoli fam; beautiful flowers/ zoli fler etc.
There are over 100 creole languages in the world and some are national and official languages as Sango in The Central African Republic; Bazaar Malay, a creole language, has, according to experts, evolved into Bahasa Indonesia, the national and official language of Indonesia; Afrikaans, another creole language, is one of the national languages of the Republic of South Africa; English which is today the universal language of Planet Earth, the official language of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the unofficial national language of India etc. etc. is a creole language. French documents (ID card, passport etc.) are now in French and English. O crime de lèse-majesté! When European leaders meet, they use English. N’en deplaise!
Do you understand why Mauritian Creole (MC) should be known as Morisien (Mauritian), the national language of the republic and eventually the official language together with English. Is it that hard to understand? I know you are not morons though you are trying to be.
Different language functions in
In this field, as well, terms are used ‘bonavini’. There are so-called teachers who argue that MC is already used as medium in schools. These intellectual giants do not know the difference between ‘A MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION’ and ‘A SUPPORT LANGUAGE’. The ORAL use of MC in the classroom is now widespread at all levels. When communication in the official medium collapses, teachers resort to MC, the L1 of over 90% of the classroom population, to orally explain concepts which then are translated into the official medium in which books are written and examinations taken. Try to explain ‘blank verse’ (iambic pentametre) in the official medium: “It is a rhythmic pattern that consists of ten syllables per line, with alternating stressed and unstressed syllables: da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM.”
From experience, I know that support from MC does help. Since MC is a syllabic language, it helps to teach learners how to break down words into syllables and then we can show the difference between stressed and unstressed syllables.
In Mauritius many ethnic languages are taught as subject: French, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Mandarin etc. Recently MC called KM (Kreol Morisien) joined the league AS AN ETHNIC LANGUAGE. A very serious mistake. The language pundits of Mauritius do not know that the word ‘creole’ is polysemic (has several meanings). It refers to people (white, mulatto, afroblack), to places ( creole islands like the Seychelles, Reunion, Rodrigues, Mauritius), to a specific type of architecture, food, music and culture. MC is certainly not an ethnic language except in the diseased mind of a few segregationist racists. It is the first language of over 90% of the population of the Maritime Republic of Mauritius; it is the de-facto, though not yet de-jure, national language of the republic.
It is the tool used to master literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy (the ability to understand and work with numbers); to receive and give formal education; to improve the standard of knowledge in general; to develop the brain etc.
Mother tongue literacy and numeracy is the indispensable foundation stone for brain development, for capacity to acquire basic skills and knowledge and, later, for the attainment of functional literacy and the full enjoyment of the fruits of modern living. When I was working at the M.I.E, I proposed the introduction of ‘Creolistics’ to make all children literate in Mauritian and English. My most senior told me off, “Si tou dimoun konn lir, kisannla pou koup kann!” At that moment I realised that I was in the wrong place. I resigned.
Schooling has now been free and accessible for more than two-thirds (⅔) of a century (about 70 years) and yet only less than 30% of the population possess the skills of basic and or functional literacy. Why? And who is to blame? PA MWA SA LI SA!
I wonder if there is another place in the world where children are not allowed to master basic literacy skills in their mother tongue and are forced to master it in 3 foreign languages (English, French and Hindi or Urdu or Mandarin or any other ethnic languages). Politicians adore this situation which fuels tribalism and bloc-voting of party symbols. Literacy would make voters choosy and very difficult to please. From SSR to PKJ via SAJ, SGD, PRB and other NRs, this highly serious issue has been deliberately ignored for it is not vote-catching. Better invest in contract buses, picnics, rum and biryani!
What about most teachers?
As long as Mass-Private-Tuition Co. Unlimited generates high-nontaxable-income why change content and method? Keep on giving ‘shit’ as sweetmeat!
And priests? Francophone Catholicism, Anglophone Protestantism, Sanskritophone Hinduism and Arabophone Islam use MC as support to pass on basic ritual messages but important issues are dealt with in the languages of holy books ‘as they are God’s languages’(sic). Priests and politicians seem to have the same outlook. Literate people are dangerous because they ask too many questions.
PARENTS? Parents are very quick to insist on their rights to do what they think is good for their children. Do they have the right to mentally ‘rape’ their progeny by denying them the right to use their MOTHER TONGUE. Mothers should know that a baby in the womb very early starts to develop hearing and hears the mother’s voice. Baby’s Broca’s area in the brain together with the universal grammar with which human DNA is programmed, start a development process which leads to the structuring of language skills based on the language of the mother which the baby hears with more and more clarity as it grows in the womb. This is why, when babies are born, they quickly master the language of their mothers. It saddens me when I hear mothers tell their children not to use mothers’ language for it is vulgar and they should speak a foreign language which will make them intelligent. Do you know a better case of self- debasement-denigration-deprecation-depreciation? By so doing, they hinder the proper mental and physical growth of the child they say they love. Fathers are also to blame. The language they use with their wives, relatives and friends is prohibited in many homes.
Magema! Mo finn plen donn bourik manz lazle!
(Mother-O-Mother! I’ve had enough casting pearls before swine.)