As time goes by, Somali language is deteriorating in Somali communities in the west. The majority of this country’s Somali youth don’t know Somali language.
Those who do know the language use it only for watching Somali movie concerts, listening to songs from movie concerts, debating about Somali clan politics and criticizing another Somali clan for what they have done to certain issues. But they neither speak with their kids, spent time with them or other Somali youth in Somali language, nor do they teach their children in Somali language at home! At the any given Somali social youth gathering place, how many youth can be seen conversing in Somali? a number that can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
In any Somali youth gathering place not only does the fragrance of Somali not permeate the forums, its scent is non-existent. We need to adopt measures to dispel the ignorance of Somali that exists among first-generation Somalis. Only if the present condition changes will Somali have any life in the future of the West.
Everyone agrees that it’s good for Somali youth in Diaspora to know Somali language and about Somali heritage. But when one points out a few Somali youth and says, “They should learn Somali language and about Somali,” a number of people will disagree. They’ll say, “Somali language education in the west (if any) can’t be forced.” Or youth will lash out by saying, “If I want to learn, I’ll learn. Who are you to say that I should learn Somali language?” Those are words that indirectly indicate a lack of interest.
People who are eager to learn Somali language wouldn’t answer this way. Even parents will quote the above statements to use as an excuse to explain why they didn’t teach their kids Somali language. But this view is misinformed and needs to be refuted. In almost all Western countries high schools, Western history is taught as a required subject.
The majority of Somali youth aren’t going to use in any way the information learned in this course. However, no Somali parents or youth would consider this required subject to be educational imposition. On the contrary, our Somali youth try hard to get good grades in Western history.
But when someone tells these Somali youth to show the same interest in learning their mother tongue that they do in Western history, they’ll bring up the idea of imposition of education. An even clearer example is foreign language courses. The syllabus of most Western high schools and colleges includes foreign language courses. In other words, one must have studied a foreign language in order to graduate.
The majority of our Somali youth have been studying German, French, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Arabic, Chinese, Urdu, Latin, or Spanish … But why aren’t they learning Somali at home? Is it necessary? For Somali youth who can’t speak properly with their relatives to learn other foreign languages? I learned French and Italian from Somali national university in old good days in Mogadishu. Till this day that education has been of absolutely no use to me. If I had spent that time learning Somali grammar while in Somali national university, and Somali literature instead of French and Italian, I would have taught Somali language to Somali youth in Diaspora. Foreign language requirements are included in syllabi with the idea that students should know some foreign language.
In general, that can be any foreign language. Therefore, it’s worth mentioning that those who are proficient in Somali or are learning Somali languages don’t necessarily need to learn other foreign Languages in school.
Western colleges and universities follow the philosophy of liberal arts education for undergraduate studies. According to this philosophy, students take a variety of classes along with the classes required for their degree.
About half the classes one takes are classes required by the degree; the other half are the various liberal arts classes. At least one or two liberal arts classes have to be taken from all of the following types of categories: social science, natural science, history, mathematics, philosophy, (English) literature, and foreign language.
There are two reasons put forth for the concept of liberal arts education. One reason is that studying a variety of subjects is essential for broadening one’s knowledge base. If one were to take only classes related to his major, he wouldn’t know anything outside that field. The other reason is that one won’t be able to decide on a major until having taken and gotten a taste of classes from various fields.
Liberal arts education is an excellent educational method. But for some reason, even though Somali youth accept this method and get college degrees, they are disregarding their Somali education. When they ‘retaking a broad variety of liberal arts classes, it’s not right for them to say they’re not interested in Somali. And it’s sad to hear this coming from those who don’t know even the slightest thing about Somali.
I believe that Somali children have a natural interest in things like Somali language, family history, and their ancestor’s way of life. It’s while they’re growing up that this spark of interest, instead of becoming a fire, becomes extinguished. There are a few reasons for this. One is that there aren’t any Somali heritage schools, Somali learning centers, as I know of, in the West.
Secondly is that there aren’t any quality textbooks for Somali language instruction. Thirdly is that there aren’t any initiative community programs that has been put in place. When Somali youth in Diaspora are unable to find any source of Somali language learning facilities, and support from their parents, their interest decreases. The big reason for lack of interest in Somali is parents. When interacting with their children, parents don’t emphasize Somali language at all.
When their children are reading Greek epics in school, shouldn’t parents introduce to them the beauty? of ‘WARYAA”- Somali language? When their children are learning world history, shouldn’t parents say at least a couple of words about the history of the WILLWAAL? CIGAAL SHIDAAD, DHEGDHEER, and ARAWEELO kingdoms? When their children are studying the critical thinking of Greek philosophers, shouldn’t parents give them an explanation of SAYID MAXAMED CABDULE HASSAN’s philosophy against British imperialism In Somali soil? Because parents aren’t doing this, Somali buds, instead of blooming in young hearts, are withering from lack of care. Just as parents have a duty to instill in their children good character traits such as responsibility, honesty, and hard work, they also have a duty to instill in them Somali language.
No one expresses pride about their ignorance of Somali language. But a number of people who grew up without learning Somali express a longing for knowledge of the language. A number of youth who never paid any attention as children to Somali language desire to learn it after beginning their undergraduate education.
Maturity and the college environment are the two factors that bring about this change. But because college is the time when youth begin to take on a host of new responsibilities, they claim that they don’t have time to learn Somali at home. Sensing that, in the future, it won’t be easy to learn Somali language, some of them mutter sadly that their parents should have taught them Somali when they were children.
In order to prevent this situation from befalling other Somali youth, we should hurry and put into practice plans for Somali education system in the West. We should make ‘WARYAA” - Somali language alive in the West!
By Fowzi Herzi- viaconi – firstname.lastname@example.org
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