African universities have been challenged to start robust journals of linguistics and languages to help disseminate research findings that could help save indigenous languages from extinction.
Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology Jacob Kaimenyi said on Tuesday that the universities as the bastion of knowledge, has to share research findings with the populations as opposed to archiving them for future research alone.
"It is important to develop and sustain languages and protect them from being adulterated and overwhelmed by outside influences," Kaimenyi said on Tuesday during the opening of the 12th International Nilo-Saharan colloquium on linguistics and languages in Nairobi.
He said new languages such as Kenya's "sheng", a mixture of English, Swahili and mother-tongues, is now emerging and threatening the existence of indigenous and national languages due to lack of emphasis on indigenous languages.
Kaimenyi observed that it is unfortunate that university students and the public communicate in a manner that does not respect grammar.
"The alternative languages are a corruption of the national language and therefore ends up confusing young people," he added.
Africa is home to a third of the 7,400 indigenous languages spoken worldwide.
During the conference that is being attended by delegates from five continents, it was agreed that the linguists engage policy makers to ensure that the indigenous languages are saved from extinction.
The delegates from African countries also called on universities to promote public discourse by inviting the populations to conferences so that they could understand first hand research findings and be able to help revive languages that are threatened with extinction.
Kaimenyi called on the younger generation to stop being apologetic when they speak in vernacular languages adding that advanced education is not knowing foreign language but using language to help create a cohesive and better understanding between people.
According to Kithaka Wa Mberia, the chairman of the department of linguistics and languages at the University of Nairobi (UoN), some languages like that of the Rendile and Ichamus tribesmen in northern and central Kenya are getting extinct due to assimilation while the Suba in western Kenya is already making a comeback.
He said that it is unfortunate that most Kenyan children from elite backgrounds do not speak their mother tongues, yet mother tongues help in cognitive development of a child.
"Even at home parents do not consider speaking mother tongue with their children, a language that is their first language," he said.
He said that most regional economies can easily collapse if there is no communication between the locals in their first language.