Preamble:

The role  of language  in any society could not be over-emphasized. Language  is the cultural thing that  binds people  of a nation together. It is the springboard on which the  resources  of a Nation  both human  and material rest.

 

In the biblical  Tower of Babel, problems  started  when  the people were  unable  to share  the same channel  of communication because of  the curse  on them by God. Thus, the  hitherto  existing cooperation  and mutual understanding  they had  was no longer  possible. They therefore , left  the tower they were trying to build to reach their Maker , uncompleted.

 

 

For a country  to move ahead   and to level up  with other  nations of the world , effective communication  within and without  is very vital politically, socially, economically and religiously.

 

In this piece, I will attempt to reframe  the minds  of Nigerians  on the danger of relegating  or serial assassination  of our  mother tongues be it Yoruba,  Igbo, Hausa, Edo or Tiv to mention a few in preference  to the foreign  languages  viz: English , French , German, or Russian.

 

 

Locally Fabricate Truck in Nigeria

I will also highlight some of the valuable   contributions  our indigenous   languages  have made , are making   and could still make   toward  the progress  of our country and offer some relevant suggestions.

 

 

The relation  between  a language  and the people who speak  it  cannot  be thought  of apart. A language lives only, so long  as  there are people  who speak it  and use it  as their mother tongues.

 

 

The English language  which today  is the language  of the civil service  in Nigeria was once  at the same  level  of recognition as our indigenous  languages viz-Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo that are regarded as ‘inferior’ today.

 

According to A.C. Baugh, ‘’the Norman conquest  made English  for two centuries  the language  mainly  of the lower classes  while the nobles  and those associated with them  used French  on almost all occasions’’. Today, the English  Language  is widely  used all over the world’.

 

Similarly, the erudite English Literary genius  Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in English dialect not because  of the inability  to write fashionable  and systematic  language of the day  viz- Latin, French  and Greek  but  because of  his inordinate ambition  to promote  his mother tongue despite  the inconsistencies  and frivolities  in it. Why should ours be different?

 

The genesis  of Nigerian languages is as old as Nigerian society itself. For example , the Yoruba language  as one of the Nigerian languages  has been  in use since time immemorial  and was reduced into writing around 1822.

 

It is interesting to note that foreigners were even more interested  in Yoruba language  then,  to spread the religion Christianity among other motives. People like John C. Raban, ,(a German), C. A. Gollmer and a France –born  M. DAVEZAC, to mention a few. Not long after, say, about 1844, the English Bible was translated to  Yoruba  by a Nigerian – born freed slave-Samuel Ajayi Crowther.

Today we have Britons that teach Yoruba language and other African Languages in our educational institutions both in Nigeria and in overseas.

 

Mention can be made here of Nigerians who have made,and still making tremendous impact  in the literary circles. We have astute Yoruba writers  like the late D.O. Fagunwa, late J.F. Odunjo, Akinwumi Isola, Afolabi Olabimtan,Prof. Wande Abimbola, Adeboye Babalola, Prof.  Oladele Olajubu , Olu Alaba to mention a few.

 

In the Igbo circle, we have  geniuses  like F.F Ogbalu, N. Ugoma, L.N. Oraka and J. C.  Madueke  amongst others.

 

Similarly, in the Hausa context, names like Ibrahim, M.S. Dangogo, A. Kontagoras  and Yahaya I.Y.  and a host of others  are worthy  of mention.  All these writers help in the development and exposition  of their cultures in their environments and  to the world in general. They are thus  educating , correcting  the ills in the society  and updating  their societal beliefs , norms and convections.

 

 

In the civil service , Nigerian language graduates have been contributing to the arts, cultural and Sociological development of our motherland. Some have served and still serving as teachers /educators, heads of institutions  of learning in the country.

Politically, the history of Nigeria politics will not be complete without   the mention of important names of versatile and articulate politicians such as the Ibadan man,  Adelabu Adegoke ,a.k.a. ‘’Penkelemeesi’,  S.L.A. Akintola,  Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Michael Okpara, Tafawa Balewa ,  Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Bola Ige (all of blessed memory) who all had a very good command of their indigenous languages  and fully utilized them in their political careers.

A good example was Chief Akintola who was reputed to have  a very good  command  of the vocabulary  of the three main Nigerian  languages-Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba respectively. Same with the ‘Cicero of Esa-Oke’, Chief Bola Ige.

 

If we are to subscribe to Aristotle assertion  in his politics that ‘’man  is by nature  a political animal’’, it portends therefore, that  nature intends  man to live in  a (political ) society  and it is  only in a society  that the gift of  speech  has any meaning and use; this is where our indigenous languages  come in .

 

The majority of Nigerians are illiterates (you either believe it or leave it).  Half of  the Nigerian populace cannot  make judicious use  of the English language  because of inability to get the right type of education they need . But he / she makes use of the mother languages which makes him feels belonging to his society without which he remains cut off from that society.

 

Our indigenous languages are pivotal to preach peace in our society.  In the olden days, the Roman Catholic made use  of Latin  during  their church services . Not long after independence, they discovered   that it was unrealistic to  bring converts into the fold without the use of our indigenous languages  because 95 percent of the congregation could not understand the sermon in English or songs in Latin.

 

 

They thereby adjusted to English and later the indigenous languages took over. Yoruba language dominates preaching among the Yoruba while Hausa and Igbo follow suit in their domains respectively and with good interpreters.

 

 

Although ,  Latin ,is at times employed  in-between sermons  today  among the Roman Catholics  but sermons are not entirely conducted  in Latin as it was in the past.

 

 

Education Policy Somersaults

Nigerian  government (past and present ) is responsible  for the slow pace of technological development in the country. Pupils in  primary and Nursery schools  who are supposed  to be exposed earlier  to technological jargons or vocabulary in their mother tongues  are deprived of this.

 

Our educational policy is not stable. One man comes, the next minute he lives, abandon the previous government policy . A case in point was the 6,3,3, 4 system of education introduced  by previous government in Nigeria which made it compulsory  (theoretically) to instruct  or teach   these pupils in their mother tongues.

 

 

Parents /Teachers Deliberately Not Allowing  Their Children /Pupils Communicate In Mother Languages

 

Some parents do not even  help matter too. They force  their children  to speak English  at the detriment of their mother tongues as if English is their mother tongue-L1. They confuse these children  at a early stage of life.

 

A cousin of mine came from London some years back with her seven years old boy. As we were discussing in the car, the boy, surprisingly was crying , saying, ’’Mummy , what are you saying , I don’t understand your language again , speak English!

 

We quickly switched to English language because of his predicament  and later, I told the mother of  her fault in not to have been speaking her language to the poor boy where they  stayed in London. From that very moment, the boy began to learn how to speak her mother’s language and eventually love to communicate with it.

 

Of what meaning is ‘snow’ to a primary  or secondary school pupil in Nigeria  who has never been to Europe or America;  all these vocabulary or names of things in their literary works or poems forced to memorize in schools are not strange to their American counterparts because it is what they see and feel most of the seasons.

 

Advanced Countries Make Use of Mother Languages For  Tech. Development

 

In  Japan, for anybody to study in that country, it is extremely  important  that such foreign student  must have adequate  knowledge of Japanese  language. Many foreign  students   study the language  in Japan  for 6-12 months  before applying  to universities  for admission. This is simply because  in principle, educational institutions  in Japan hold  all their lessons in Japanese . The same in Germany,  Russia and China.

Indigenous Vehicle Manufacturing Product

These countries  adore their indigenous languages  and are more advanced technologically than us. Japan was once the world’s most technologically advanced country. Now China has taken the trophy.

 

In the outcry  of Professor Chukwuemeka  Ike  in the ‘Daily  Champion ‘ of May 18th 1990 page 9, he said:’’One of the  first questions  flung  at the African writer when he visits  Europe  or America is, ’’in what language   do you write?’’ Yet, no sane person  would ask an  English , German , French  or American  writer such a question’’.

Critically observed, it means relegating our mother tongues or indigenous languages to the background in preference for foreign languages and culture is signaling a death knell to our languages.

 

 

 

Everybody all over the world thinks in his own language. Mathematics which is the backbone of technology could be taught better for effective comprehension  in our indigenous  languages from the elementary schools  to the secondary schools.

 

In one of the National Dailies of recent, the headline captioned: ’’Students still shun the Sciences’’. Language barrier is one of the  problems responsible for this. If instructions in the classrooms are done in their indigenous languages, students would develop interest and understand the subject better. This does not mean they will not be taught in other subjects in English or whatever . But majorly , science and technical subjects could be taught effectively in the mother tongues.

Today, being the International Mother Language Day, I want to commend the international body who recognizes a day as Mother Language day. This is because  mother tongues are vital as the first language a child comes in contact after birth  and thinks with the mother tongue until other languages are introduced to him.

To Do

In Nigeria, I want   both the Federal and State governments to identify with the world body of International Mother Day and dovetail  in giving incentives to Nigerian language teachers. Let these teachers be  adequately employed and not allowed to divert their interest somewhere else

Sometimes ago, there was a loud cry  of a provost  of College of Education  Ekiadolor-Benin, that ‘’more than 68 graduates  of the college  who studied  Edo language were yet to be  offered appointment. This trend should be reversed as studying Nigerian Languages is not inferior to other languages. In fact, the University Matriculation Examination  prescribes same requirements for all languages.

The France would never compromise  their language  for English  or the German  to the detriment  of their languages, so also Japan and China.  I think and believe that  Nigerian situation  should not be different  if really we want to develop in all facets of technologies.

Conclusion

‘’Ile ni a ti nko eso r’ode” ( Charity begins from home ). Nigerians should teach their Children and wards their mother tongues just as they cram their brains with other foreign languages. Those that we imitate in the West do not abandon their languages for others but use them to build their countries technologically and in all strata of life. All our children need to know is the equivalent of mother tongues vocabulary in English and other foreign languages . Understanding how to speak our mother tongue does not belittle us but rather makes us proud of our existence as a people.

 

 

Happy International Mother Language Day.

By Idowu Tunde

Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief

The Interviews Nigeria

By TheInterviewsNigeria

Publisher/Editor -in Chief with more than a decade of working in the media production industry, Our preoccupation is Development News and rooting for innovation locally and internationally. We are British trained Business English PRO. We edit manuscripts for book publication, translation(English/Yoruba/French). We cross your 't's' and dot your 'i's. We are also into speech draftsmanship and photography; Business reports, and proposals, with minimal cost. Meeting the deadline is our watchword. We would cover your Social /Public events with precision. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Call-08144956897, 08057355037 E-mail- theinterviewsng@gmail.com, akintunde.idowu@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *