It baffles me when I see some human beings frowning at those who speak indigenous languages or those who aren't that fluent in English language, English is a foreign language the last time I checked.

I think It's hightime we valued our indigenous languages and come to the realisation that it is our responsibility to embrace them. Parts of the misconceptions we have come to believe are: African languages are barbarous, unintelligible forms of speech spoken by savages and low people; not worthy of God's creation and certainly not worthy of civilisation and industrialization.

In the 13th century, English language was the language of the commoners, that is, it was used by those in the marketplaces; those who can be said to have a completely 'low life'. In 1332 at Oxford University, there was a decree that all conversations must be in Latin and in French. That was because they felt English was too barbaric. English language that we value now was once used informally. Despite the overriding influence of Latin and French, the Britons still held on to their language (English) which is part of their culture. America was colonised by the Britain, but the Americans have their own Standard English different from the British English. But here in Nigeria, reverse is the case.

It was stated in one of Nigeria's language policies that 'the business of a national assembly shall be conducted in English and in Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba when adequate arrangements have been made therefore'. Only God knows when adequate arrangements would be made. How many of our so called legislators can speak their indigenous languages without code-switching into the English language? It is what one knows or has the knowledge of that one uses. There are lots of language provisions that need implementation by the government. It is as if those provisions hold a gun to their heads that ' if you implement us we would kill you'.

Also, Nigerian parents are part of the problem. They are of the opinion that 'our children cannot speak native languages (Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa). Though, English is our official language; it is the language of the government, education, instruction, and media. This is because of the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria or language diversification. Some of these parents are semi-lingual, that is, they are not fluent in both languages (English and any other indigenous language). Some are missile launchers, they break and deviate from grammatical norms. English is a foreign language to us, there is no way we could observe all the rules. Even Nigerian professors launch missiles unconsciously and occasionally; English is not our language for God's sake! We must understand this.

In conclusion, it is the responsibility of the government and individuals to embrace these languages of ours. Indigenous languages must be made compulsory at all educational levels, from primary to tertiary level. They should be a prerequisite for admission and graduation. It should be 'FAIL IN ANY OF THE NATIVE LANGUAGE, FAIL IN ALL'. The government should also implement all the language provisions. Parents should start encouraging their children to speak indigenous languages. All the media houses should also follow the same step. Language and culture are like a snail and its shell; they are inseparable. Language is a culture that must be embraced.


A Student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

No comments