In 1999, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, declared February 21st as International Mother Language Day. Was it observed in this part of the world? I doubt it. Where have our prestigious languages gone?
Mother tongue can be said to mean one’s native language. It is the the language spoken to us at birth and differs from others because they are in hundreds. Mother tongues are different from those learnt at school as they are first learnt at home. After all, it is believed that the name mother tongue came about because a mother is the first teacher available to a baby after birth. Therefore, whatever language the mother speaks is eventually passed on to the child. It’s also known as, vernacular, native tongue, first language, native speech and parent language.
Nigeria is a country of 36 states with 186 million inhabitants and over 500 ethnic groups and 521 languages of which 9 have gone into extinction. Nigeria has 3 major languagaes which are- Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo while some others are Hyma, Bette, Bara, Bashiri, Atyap, Kanuri, Ibibio, Gbagyi, Igala, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Margi and Jukun among others(google to see all 521 languages).
You would agree with me that the language we all speak is English. This was made our Lingua-Franca because we were colonized by Britain and there was a need to keep speaking it so as to maintain a relationship with them and also have a common language. Don’t get me wrong, speaking of this language isn’t a problem, where the issue lies is when we cannot speak our own native language. I was a bit surprised when I checked up other languages of Nigeria online and realized I had not heard over 450 of them. Ah! You think Hausa is sweet enough, maybe you should hear others.
Our native language has been a part of our culture and as we know, culture is a way of life. Culture is what makes us stand out, what influences our thoughts and conducts wherever we find ourselves. Why has this part of our culture been thrown away? The Whites we look up to adore every part of their culture and would never trade it for a thing. Ever seen a White man on a native attire or dancing to our songs? Does that mean he would totally embrace ours and neglect his? Naah but welcome to my country, Nigeria, where everyone wants to use his or her nose to speak and do things like they are done over there. Welcome to a country where kids prefer to take cornflakes and golden morn instead of pap(I understand not everyone likes this). Welcome to a country where kids tell you, ”fufu”, ”amala” and ”poundo yam” are not bae and our cherished Egusi and Ogbonna soup mean nothing and should not be eaten. Welcome to a country where we go about feeling proud while speaking English and not our own native language. It has not been prohibited yet but it has become an unspoken taboo. We have let it sink into our minds subconsciously. You speak it and you are seen as ”razz” or ”cannot be related with”.
I won’t blame westernization, I blame the past generations for failing to uphold this. This wasn’t passed unto others which in turn made others have nothing to pass on too. Why can’t we begin to see this differently. Why don’t we see it as the language of the heart and mind? Why don’t we see it as something that would connect us with other peoples of our ethnic group. Can we let others speak Yoruba and others in peace? Can we make deliberate efforts to learn it? can we tell ourselves we would not make the mistake of not teaching our own kids this? Can we see it as ”swag” and begin to put down those who don’t understand theirs? Can we learn ours before learning others? If it were a job requirement, wouldn’t we be so perfect at it? Lol, I doubt if some of us would be able to fluently speak English. Let’s stop giving away our identity and value what we have. I’d really like to learn my language so I can stand upto bus conductors. You need to hear me ask for my change in Yoruba! Chai, it sounds so off and begins to shake sef. Whenever I am confronting someone in Yoruba, my voice actually shakes and switching to English helps me lose the case(lmao). I want to be able to say, “ewa o, mi o kola o” (come o, I have no tribal marks o) and others perfectly but I’d get there sha. All the same, I’m proud Yoruba is my language and for those who know me, don’t worry, I would shock you soon ( laughs).
Igbo Kwenu! Igbo Kwenu! Kwenu! Kwenu!
Eyin temi da???
Other languages you are on your own o.
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