ACADEMICIANS have called for effective strategies to preserve mother tongue languages at risk of disappearing.
They mentioned Kizaramo (Coast and Dar es Salaam origin) and Kizinza (Mwanza-Sengerema origin) as among languages facing extinction.
They were airing their views as part of International Mother Language Day commemorations held on February 21 this year, with a lecturer in language studies at St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) -Mtwara branch, Mr Zacharia Josephat, citing the shift from one language to another as one of the factors over the languages' natural death.
For instance, he said, surveys show that Kizinza language speakers have adopted Kisukuma, while Wazaramo speakers fully switched to Kiswahili.
"As a result, mother tongue languages lack users. Their actual speakers have been affected by other languages within their regions. Relevant authorities, be it Culture Council or ministry should get involved in keeping records of all languages at natural death risk," said the Lecturer.
He said all languages around the world are characterized by growth and decline, and language development means development of vocabulary of that particular language, insisting that language death happens when it lacks users.
In some African countries, he added, civil wars are also a reason behind language death when a group of people abandon their mother tongue and shift into other languages for security purposes.
“Again, sometimes certain tribes in poor economic status do get a sense of shame when speaking a certain language, hence, shift to others for fear of being stigmatized,” said the lecturer.
Assistant lecturer in the Kiswahili Department of SAUT main Campus of Mwanza, Mr Alshafati Ndumiwe suggested mother tongue languages should be used as a medium of communication in mass media, a culture that was introduced during the post-colonial era.
According to him, there were lots of newspapers in mother tongue languages, including 'Igambonile' newspaper that was in Kihaya (Kagera origin) language, but which no longer exists.
“Again, nowadays young people prioritize foreign languages and abandon theirs. There is also need to change the language policy in the country to allow the use of mother tongue in learning institutions, from primary level, but also speakers to teach the new generation those languages," he recommended.