Some of us may have been aware that February 21st is declared as the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO. Do you know why mother language is regarded as an important language?
According to KBBI, “bahasa ibu” or “mother language” is the first language mastered by human beings since they were born through the interaction with fellow members of the language society. Mother language is learned from the family and the surrounded society. Based on the definition, we can say that mother language is the local language, and it is different from the national language such as Bahasa Indonesia.
Indonesia has become the second most linguistically diverse nation in the world by having 718 local languages. Unfortunately, as the time goes by, the existence of local languages is getting eroded. Many local languages even have been categorized as extinct, critical, or endangered. Let’s take a look at the example of those living in Yogyakarta or Malang -two cities considered as student cities in Indonesia-. Most students or postgraduates there tend to use the national language to communicate because they are surrounded by people from different cities. Moving out of town, either permanent or temporary, is one of the reasons why the use of local language becomes less and less popular. The other reasons may be the lack of pride and loyalty towards their local language or the massive penetration of foreign languages and cultures.
In the child development area, mother language holds a very important role. Psychologists and education experts state that mother language is very beneficial for children’s intellectual and socio-emotional development because mother language is the first and main communication tool for children since they were born. Noam Chomsky, a language expert and linguistic professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that mother language is used to activate the innate language skill of a child. Once the skill has been activated, a child can develop his language. The opinion is approved by Chief, a psychologist and the writer of Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, who said that a baby acquires his language knowledge through listening to conversations, producing sounds, and looking at people talking.
Apart from being a bridge to develop children’s abilities, specifically in Indonesia, mother language or local language has a courtesy level. This level regulates the language or the vocabularies that should be used when communicating with elders or friends of the same age. This reflects the culture of manners which implicitly instills good manners in the children’s life.