Lokono People and Language: A Journey of Discovery

  • September 29, 2023      Friendly Borders Staff

Paramaribo – Words connect people, and the evolution of a people’s culture can greatly be seen in the development of its language. However, different indigenous communities face the challenge of preserving and continuing the use of their native language, and the Lokono people of Suriname is no exception. The good thing here is that there seems to be a reawakening of language awareness to develop the Lokono language, not just among the locals but even among the expatriates that have been living in the territories of Guianas and the Netherlands.

Limited but Functional

Thanks to research, there is an understanding of how the Lokono language is used at the present time. As fewer elder people live in the communities and younger ones are exposed to more culturally diverse situations, the use of the local language is limited. They may have an idea of the official language and may still consider Lokono as their native tongue. However, it is mostly used in the educational system and rarely outside of it. The creole lingua franca dominates the more accessible outlets for communication.

The greater manifestation of the lingua franca within Suriname and nearby regions is a good indication of better understanding amongst the people of the area, but may predict a sad end to the Lokono language. Though it is the non-dominant medium for communication, the people still value the language in formal settings, including rituals. However, the language needs to be used more often and with greater enthusiasm from within the heart of the ethnic group itself for the language to fully circle back to a better state.

Hopeful but Needs Support

As the UNESCO’s report rates the Lokono language as severely endangered, there is a need to reawaken the participation of the youth in the move to continue its usage. As the language is only spoken in festivals and during ceremonial occasions, only the older members of the community continue to use it. In this kind of situation, people may be able to understand the words and the context of conversations but cannot speak the language.

In spite of this, more opportunities for community events and gatherings may spark a regrowth of the language. Aside from these gatherings, people of all ages should begin to appreciate, learn, and use Lokono words by spending more time in community centers and connecting with the elderly members of the community. The younger Lokono people could even introduce the elderly to new strategies to help develop the language and make it a helpful tool for present communication. This is one of many ways to fight language extinction and keep a language alive—continuously using, developing, and making it suitable for the changing times.

Image from Damon Corrie (Silent View News), http://damongerardcorrie.blogspot.nl/

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