9 Jan 2013

Our language, Our Identity, Our Heritage

Happy new year, people!!!!!. If you are reading this post, it means you made it to the new year. How was your Christmas and cross over, hope it was fab. Mine was just there, I spent my cross over in the church, had a spirit filled crossover.
So, back to the title of the post. Our language, is our pride, our identity, our heritage. Wikipedia defines language as, " the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication. A language is any specific example of such a system".  The number of languages currently estimated and cataloged in Nigeria is 520. This number includes 510 living languages, two second languages without native speakers and 9 extinct languages. The major languages spoken in Nigeria are Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Fulfulde, Kanuri, and Ibibio.(The four latter languages are going into extinction). 

Our languages are going into extinction, yep they are slowly dying, and our generation doesn't give a hoot about it. Our kids think its uncool to speak their mother tongue, all of them trying to compete with their mates in "who speaks better British English". Our parents do not speak their languages to their kids. They all speak English to their kids. They feel speaking their mother tongue to their little kid is a taboo. What we fail to understand is this: these kids learn faster when they are younger. If you communicate to them in your mother tongue, they tend to grab the words you say to them. Kids that learn to speak their mother tongue at a very young age, tend to understand the lexis and structure of other languages. 

My neighbors 5 year old daughter, can't speak her mother tongue(which is Igbo), She doesn't even understand a single word in Igbo  When I try to communicate in Igbo, all I get in return is a blank stare. The funny aspect is that she speaks prefect flawless Yoruba. When, i asked her mom, she said "they do no understand me when I speak Igbo, so I do not bother, they would learn it when they grow up". 
Parents, teach your kids to speak your mother tongue. They would definitely learn English in school, and Yoruba (or any other language from their environment . Whenever, I hear/meet parents communicating with their kids in English, I try to educate them to speak their mother tongue to their children, because that is when their brain would assimilate these languages. An example is me :D. My mom speaks Igbo once in a while at home(when my dad drops into a conversation and scolds us to speak Igbo). I had my secondary education in the east,and I was teased mercilessly for not being able to speak Igbo. Igbo language class was the best time to sleep. I picked up bits and pieces of different Igbo dialects.(thanks to my SS3 roommates that were from different states, and spoke totally incorrigible Igbo dialects, they all claimed "its my dialect"). I  learnt to speak mine and formed the same too :D

Here is a bit of a conversation, I had with my uncle on New Years day. It was in Igbo, but I would translate to English, and switch to English at some point.

Me: Happy new year, kedu ka i mere, kedu maka ndi uno? ( how are you, how is everyone at home)

Uncle: A ri mma, I n'agwu kwa? (they are fine, hope you are reading?)

Me: Ehh (Yes)

Uncle: Nke a, i n'asuru m asusu ndi onitsha, i makwa asu asusu ndi be gi? (This one you are speaking the onitsha dialect, hope you can speak your own dialect?)

Me: Uncle, its the one I can speak, that I would speak now ehh.

Uncle: You see when I told your mom, to speak Igbo to you and your sisters, when you were younger, she wouldn't. Anyway, don't bring an Onitsha man home, or a Yoruba man, this one you are schooling in the west. Your brother married a Yoruba woman, if you bring back one ehh, I would lock you outside.

Me: *rme* Uncle, I am at the bottom of the queue, I still have many females cousins ahead of me oo, and Ada too (my elder sis), go and disturb them, when it gets to my turn, you can start to disturb me.  I wouldn't disappoint you, I would bring a French man home or better still a Mexican  so you would have cute relatives with long flowing bohemian hair....hehehehe.

I cut the call, before he could comment. :D. Nice me.

Have a fabulous year people. I am back, stay tuned to this blog.
Life is beautiful.