Having been born and raised in Nairobi, a city that is well known for being cosmopolitan, where different ethnicities, beliefs, and cultures are well represented, the use of English and Swahili is inevitable since these languages are used universally for purposes of being understood and making different transactions. Therefore, the use of ethical languages for communication is rare, and more often than not people prefer communicating in these two languages. This has encouraged the extinction of many languages in many parts of the city. However, in the areas outside Nairobi, ethical languages are key to communication.
It is quite unfortunate that some communities and their languages are going extinct not because they have integrated the English and Swahili language but because they have been required to be integrated by other communities in order to survive. A perfect example is the Yaakunte people of Doldol, Nanyuki, Laikipia county, who are said to be part of the Maasai community. Despite Nanyuki being a marketplace, it is said to be the most cosmopolitan area outside Nairobi. In this regard, many ethnic languages have been victims of extinction in the need to communicate and peacefully integrate amongst the community.
The Yaaku people are a part of the Maasai tribe of Kenya that is going extinct. They have a population of 5,500 people. They originated from Ethiopia, to find peace from their war-torn country. They then integrated among the Rendile of Laikipia East. Here, they also got assimilated by the Maasai community and they had to learn the Maa language for them to take part in the cattle economy, interact with the community, and survive. The Yakunte people used to be hunters and gatherers but after being dominated by the Maasai community adopted livestock keeping.
The language is buried under the new languages the younger generation has learned. In 2018, there were only 3 people who could speak the language fluently. But two of them have passed away and the Yakunte people only have 1 person left in the community who can speak and teach the language fluently. Despite frantic measures to try and save the language from extinction, there have been many challenges in carrying this plan to completion.
Some of the challenges include; the only fluent speaker and teacher of the language is an old frail man who requires some assistance in teaching and remembering every detail about the language another reason is the methods in which this language is taught is not systematic therefore not having a clear plan of how it will be taught and executed has made teaching and learning by the younger generation a bit difficult.
Despite all these challenges the Yakunte people have kept their tradition in museums like Mukogodo location Resource center but frantically trying to get this information to the National Museum in Nairobi has not been possible and has been made difficult by the government laws. The Yaaku language is now dependent on the younger generation that is being taught by the only fluent speaker present and the songs that are sung around the bonfires, to keep the language going. We hope that the community can keep this language from going extinct for as long as possible because many other languages have gone extinct, this is not a new phenomenon. Remember, on the verge of trying to be understood we should try not to lose our own language to discourage extinction.
Also read and learn a little about Maasai tradition East Africa:- The Decade Maasai Tradition Ceremony (Video & Photos
Read more on the Yaaku people Kenyan tribe readies for the death of its native tongue | Arts and Culture