According to a report by the World Bank, Kiswahili and English are not the best-suited languages to determine the development of children.
Although these are the official languages in Kenya, the report suggests that mother tongue is better placed when it comes to determining the development of a child before s/he joins school.
Therefore assessments of children in either Kiswahili or English may not fully depict a clear picture of the child’s progress.
The report also reveals that when a child is growing up, s/he is likely to grasp the language that the primary caregiver (the mother) speaks- the first language, L1 also known as the child’s mother tongue.
This means that these children are less likely to get exposed to English since most of the neighbours speak in the child’s mother tongue.
The report’s finding is based on a study which was conducted in Homabay and Kisumu on September 2015.
The study also aimed at understanding the performance of children on receptive vocabulary tests in mother tongue versus official languages.
13 children who took part in the assessment could answer the questions given in English.
Six children responded in Swahili. The rest, 297 which translates into 58% answered in more than one language.
It was further noted that the number of children who could answer in a single language decreased with age.
Children answered more expressive words in Luo, followed by English then Kiswahili.
The use of Swahili decreased slightly with the respondents’ age.
Even the youngest of all preferred their mother tongue to English and Kiswahili.
The question is, should we examine our children in the mother tongue?