First, Don’t Forget Your Mother Tongue

Language as an insignificant lesson still become a stigma in this country. From elementary level to university students, most of them give less attention to it. They less prioritize language as the tool of learning. This thought is wired unconsciously within their brain because the mainstream system does not support it for decades. Who are they within the system? They are parents and schools. Schools, in a wider entity is meant here as the education system.

Is language education significant?

Now try asking your nextdoor neighbor children with their local tongue. We can see it is hard now expecting answer in the same language asked. If we are an urban resident, we can have answers in Indolish (Indonesian English). The Indonesia language spoken is mixed and matched with popular English words and phrases. And if you are living in a rural area or village, even in a less reachable area like Cimenyan, the children will answer you in Indonesian, their national language. They are often found stutter in speaking their mother tongue, Sundanese. This local language seems losing its native interest. Should this predisposition become our concern?

Over the past several decades, not just bilingual, even being multilingual is a unique gift experienced by most of Indonesian. It was common to meet people having ability to speak more than two regional languages. Our friends speak Sundanese, Balinese, Melayu and Acehnese at once, while the distance from where each language comes is as far as its region. Geographically, the distance from one region to another may approximately equal to the distance between Spain and Britain. Another uniqueness is that since majority of Indonesia population are living in local culture based Islam, they are also able to read and write Arabic, at least for a limited purpose related to ritual subjects. Such rich multi languages ability may lead to a perception that Indonesian should be literally good in the way of thinking and communication, right? But lately, our children of nation seem too busy in racial and religious issues driven by political and power interests as if we didn’t get basic logics in our language lesson.

Global Connection Landed

The leveraged social life and the emerge of global schools, international standard managed private schools, and community schools help contribute positively to give different education choices for urban advantaged families. Children mingle socially with friends from different nations. Even when they come from passive to disabled English-speaking parents, soon or later the children will be able to communicate adaptively in English with their friends and teachers. The euphoria of speaking English as a second language oftentimes viewed as a kind of cool, modern lifestyle. This creating a mass sudden-shock behavior to parents so eventually they drop their mother tongue and no longer apply it as their first or primary language in family internal communication. While we know that foreign language is meant as a tool for a wider communication and helping us gaining knowledge widely and in depth. Children do not know about the euphoria. Parents know and experience it.

For bilingual parents, means parents with another language active, for example English, such communication problem is solved. But parents with adrift language ability in sudden-shock behavior group, will just creating a stutter communication to their children. A firm, settled language(s) speaking or sign language ability by parents is a basis for a good communication to their children.

Mr. and Mrs. Aep from a disadvantaged family in Cimenyan taken here as a sample case. As parent, their mother tongue is Sundanese and they both are really passive in Indonesian. They let their children speak in Indonesian only because their subconscious mind thinks that speaking in mother tongue will be viewed as old-fashioned. What happen now to their children is that they have a frozen communication not just with parents but also friends and neighbor. Different to advantaged urban families, like many other disadvantaged families, the golden age (0 to 9 yo) was not passed through well by the children. In that time, the child brain should be ideally having opportunity to accept minimum 6 new words (spoken or sign language) every day from age 0 to 3. They should accept informally learning about basic confirmation from age 3 to 7, and so on. There is also lack emotion building formed through the intimacy of mother tongue. Mother tongue has significant role in forming cognitive ability to children at early stage. How can a child be introduced to their mind, experience, and sense natural ability if one of the parents who are responsible in giving education intensively to their children does not have proper ability neither speaking (in the meaning of normal or deaf) in their mother tongue? Gesture, mimic and body expression must be supported with such language because it will create ideas and imagination to children mind.

Mother tongue is the ultimate language to build and preserve civilization. It holds and expresses richly language of mind, sense, experience and imagination. Relying on Google initiatives that continues struggling to preserve the endangered languages around the world, including Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese, would not works well. Native speakers must struggle harder to not letting each regional language as mother tongue lost from this nation. Keeping the mother tongue alive is not just for the language itself. It is for recovering the real education for our children. Our Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, Bataknese, Acehnese kids and youth generation for example, will used to speak again using direction and navigation language skills that mostly applied in their mother tongue for their daily activities. Imagine there are two boys talking like this when playing with their toy. The Javanese says, “Mas’e ngelakoake drone ngidul-wetan-ngalor, aku ngulon-ngalor-ngidul”. The Sundanese says, “Aa apungkeun drone ngidul-ngetan-ngalor, abdi apungkeun ngulon-ngalor-ngidul”. In Indonesian as national language it says, “Kakak terbangkan dronenya ke Selatan-Timur-Utara, saya terbangkan ke Barat-Utara-Selatan” (the translation in English is “Brother, fly the drone to South-East-North, I fly it to West-North-South”). Mother language with words, numbers, direction and navigation vocabularies contains the essence of imagination.

Last but not least, mother tongue gives big impact to the internalization of values introduced by religious lesson. Mother tongues like Sundanese, Javanese, Minangnese and Melayu are actually having many versions from the very traditional to the modern ones. These mother languages have vocabularies far richer than the national language, Indonesian. As we know such languages, especially the old version of Sundanese and Javanese are also used decades to centuries ago (depends on the religion) as transliteration language in holy books of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. This fact gives us a clear depict that we can learn from history on how language education that intensively introduced by any religion in past had contributed to the way of communication, collaboration and critical thinking. *Siti Nur Aryani