Growing up in a multi-lingual environment, the idea of language as a cultural medium struck me from childhood. I was always baffled by parents who would not attempt to teach their children their mother-tongue. And it equally puzzled me that children would not want to learn their mother-tongue.
Now that I’m a bit older, there’s not one peer of mine who declares with pride that they cannot speak their mother-tongue. Rather, it’s a source of remorse – regardless of whether they or their parents are to blame. You lose something of your cultural identity when you cannot speak the language.
As I was reading Psalm 78 this morning, I realized that God instructed the Israelites to tell and retell their story as a means of rooting them in their identity (v5-7). Two phrases ring in my mind, “ziya wawuri: ziya kwawakabva” which means “know who you are: know where you came from.” I can’t say it is a Ndau proverb with all fairness and all certainty, but it’s something my family has oft repeated to me. Knowing where you came from helps you understand who you are.
To me, the story of my spiritual fore-fathers’ journey to the promised land is as real as the story of how my father ended up a student at the University of Zambia. And both inform my identity as the spiritual and biological progeny.
Individuals who have no story to tell, have no sense of identity. It’s ok if you don’t know your story, you can partake of the biblical culture and adopt the story therein. That’s how Christianity can be a culture – because we share the same stories 🙂
Thus it can be concluded that fathers should always tell their children bed time stories. Stories that teach them about their past so that they will know who they are. And by sheer volume of the time spent with the children, mothers must teach them their cultural language.