Sierra Leone Native Languages-Are They Dying Out?

There are about 16 indigenous tribes in Sierra Leone. I stand to be corrected and we have the; Mandingos, Sherbros, Temnes, Mendes, Limbas, Lokos, Fulas, Creoles, Kurankos, Konos, Kissi’s, Yalunkas, Krus, Krims, and lastly Vais. I don’t even know if I have ever heard some of these minor tribes in my life. I don’t know if you have noticed but I have, the alarming rate of which Sierra Leoneans are refusing to speak their native languages or the fact that we’re not teaching a whole new generation of children how to speak these languages. Do you think there is a threat of extinction among these tribes? Why are people losing interest in most of them, especially, our generation and the generation after us? Our parents or elders seem oblivious to this trend or they just don’t care, period. You will hear them joyfully referring to us as British Temne, or British Limba as the case may be. Who told them Britain has native Limba or Mende people? Some of these tribes can only be found within the Mano River Union and for that reason only we should try or use any means possible to preserve them as people.

This trend is not unique to only Sierra Leone but I think ours is worse. The rate at which these languages are dying is very alarming and a cause for concern. Of course, some may argue that it’s the effect of colonialism, which is very true to some extent don’t get me wrong, the effect of bad governance and the economic situation too has also influenced this trend, as people have been migrating to big towns and cities to seek a better life. They move to these urban centres and of course, have to learn the common means of communication which is Krio thereby forgetting to speak their native tongue. They’ll have kids and the struggle of fending for them leads them to leave the house very early and returned very late, no time absolutely to teach this generation of kids their mother tongue, to get them fully rooted in our norms, cultures, and relics.

We use to hear stories of our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, of how they used to teach their children who have never been to Sierra Leone to speak their mother tongues but not anymore. What’s the problem? Where did we get it wrong? To tell you the truth this has lead to most of our troubles in Sierra Leone. There is not that sense of belonging anymore. We are losing the richness in our diversity, the tolerance for it all as Sierra Leoneans. People are losing themselves to modernization we prefer speaking English to our kids, which is good but why not teach them the English and Kru, Vai, or Yalunka at the same time. Instead of just the Krio or English which are just reminders of our troubled pasts, with all due respect to our Creole people. Do you know, to teach a child that early two or three languages play an important role in the child’s brain and intellectual development: such as helping them concentrate and multitask apart from the basic fact of them being bilingual and multilingual and the capability to analyze different ideas and thought at a go.

Another positive of learning this generation of youths our local languages is that it will help us restore or protect them from extinction. They will be able to connect to their roots and ancestors. It will keep them glued to their heritage, as it will serve as a constant reminder of our journey as a nation. Our native languages bring and boost our sense of belonging, which so many of us had lost along the way. We go to the provinces and act as if we all that, and or superior to them just because we speak Krio and they don’t. we don’t bother with learning from them instead we respond in Krio if we are spoken to in our native languages, so much so that people in this hinterland are also picking up the habit of not speaking their dialect. One can only get the aged or those who had never been to these urban towns to speak their tongues. It’s a sad truth but we are all to blame. Diversity is good but the significance of keeping these languages alive can never be overemphasized in terms of the enrichment of our cultures and societies.

To those Sierra Leoneans living abroad please go back to the old method of speaking your native languages to your kids at home. This can help them feel more connected to you as their parents and their relatives in Salone. Give them native names with meanings even if it’s a middle name, rather than all these co-join meaningless names.

So far only a few tribes in Sierra Leone has been able to teach and pass down their tribes from one generation to the other with all the things that it comes with. The Fula’s have really tried in maintaining their rich culture, traditions, and tribe. Some may argue that it is because they are the most enclosed ethnic group in the country. This is true to some extent but we can learn the positive things in keeping our tribes alive from them. The Temnes and the Mendes are slowing struggling behind the Fullas to Keep their native languages. We have so many tribal unions so what are they doing to keep these languages alive?

If we as parents cannot teach our children our native languages because we ourselves cannot speak them. Let not fail this new generation of kids, as our parents did us. Let’s advocates the government and the private schools around, to see how best they can add these languages to the school curriculum. Our kids could be taught in the school system from preschool to high school. Parent with the resources, look for people who could offer home classes in these tribes for your kids, you can even join in if you have the time. Instead of spending all the long school holiday at home this year make plans to send them to the villages to learn. Some of the youth you had finished college or university with no job for the past year’s, yet very fluent in your local language have you thought of starting something in your community in this field. You never know until you try. We all have to work to bring Salone where it was before the war. Salone is ours to nurture and grow and we all must play our part as citizens, it is on our shoulders rest this heavy burden. Peace out.✌✌


@By Rahima Vandy-Kargbo otherwise known as dasalonetiti Rahima

6 thoughts on “Sierra Leone Native Languages-Are They Dying Out?

  1. Great piece, those other tribes should learn from us, the krios. No matter where we are in the world will always learn our children our language and culture. Small as we are but our language has become the main language of business and communication in Sierra Leone.


  2. I’m happy to know I share the same view with you. Most of the time I tell my neighbor to teach her kids their language which is the susu but she doesn’t. Instead she tells me “deh dae yeri o,na tok nrmr deh nae tok am”,sad. She has the opportunity to teach her young kids but she doesn’t see it as her responsibility but as you’ve rightly said,we’re to be blamed.


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