Posts Tagged ‘LANGUAGES’


July 25, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Ngugi laments dying African indigenous languages
Ngugi laments dying African indigenous languages
July 24, 2012 by Segun Olugbile 6 Comments
Popular author, Prof. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, has lamented the rate at which Africans are abandoning their indigenous languages for foreign languages, saying this trend is tantamount to self-enslavement.
Wa Thiong’o said this on Monday while speaking at the second edition of the Read Africa initiative of the United Bank for Africa Foundation to promote reading culture among pupils in Lagos.
According to him, most Africans are neglecting their indigenous languages in preference for foreign languages, noting that this trend was dangerous for the sustenance of Africans and their traditions.
He noted that Africans who have the mastery of other people’s languages at the expense of their own indigenous languages have subjected themselves to “second slavery.”
The Kenyan writer, who teaches at Yale University, added that those who were proficient in their indigenous languages and added mastery of other foreign languages had truly empowered themselves.
The writer of the popular Weep Not Child, warned Africans against killing their indigenous languages, noting that the consequences of this would be too much to bear.
“For me, enslavement is when you know all the languages of the world but you don’t know your own language. Empowerment is when you know your own language and you add other languages to it. We should promote our languages. We should encourage our children to speak our own language,” he said.
The author, who was accompanied to the formal inauguration of the second edition of the Read Africa by his 17-year-old son, Thiongo Ngugi, said he stopped writing in English Language about 10 years ago, to spearhead this campaign.
“I stopped writing in English Language 10 years ago because Africa is our base and we must not lose our base and our indigenous languages. Since then I have been writing in Nkiyu language and I later do translation myself or I look for somebody to do it for me,” he said.
Addressing the audience including pupils and top officials of UBA led by the Group Managing Director, Mr. Phillip Odoza, the writer called for the development of young African writers.
He, however, told the pupils that they should cultivate a robust reading culture if they hoped to become good writers.
“Reading is an integral part of imagination and without reading your imagination will shrink. It’s like food, when you don’t eat, your body will shrink and when you don’t feed your spirit with religious books, your moral value will shrink,” he said.
Wa Thiong’o, who said he wrote his first two books within his first two years in college, urged the students to start writing now.
“See yourself as a person first before you see yourself as a student and don’t think you are too small to write, start now,” he said.
Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of the UBA Foundation, Miss Ijeoma Azo, had explained that the foundation would distribute Wa Thinog’o’s Weep Not Child freely to all secondary school pupils across Africa to promote reading.

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Tope July 24, 2012 at 3:53 am
When i was in secondary school we were told not to speak yoruba in school or we will pay a fine of 10 naira, but as for me i spoke yoruba and when taking to my class teacher because i refuse to pay i will tell her jokely that does the chinese speak english in school or does italy speak yoruba or english in school and she will just laugh and realise me.
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Chidi July 24, 2012 at 5:14 am
And this applies also to going back to the only assurance of our daily bread – farming! Remember the age old song: Iwe kiko, lai si oko (ati ada), ko i pe o!
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Albert July 24, 2012 at 5:30 am
Yes it is very good to speak our native language
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Bamigboye Ilesanmi T. July 24, 2012 at 10:24 am
it is gud to preserve our native language, Africa is our father land not foreign country, let’s embrace our language b/4 wil think of official lang.
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Kingsley Fergie July 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm
An excellent Author with a well designed and narrated food-for-thought,very useful 4 some of us who are not married yet
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Kingsley Fergie July 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm
I am proud of James Ngugi Wa Thiongo,i read his book in my JSS3 Literature Days,where I charactered Njoroge in d school play,always close a Mwihaki;Weep Not Child,Weep Not,My Darling,With these kisses let me remove ur tears,d ravening clouds shall not yet overflow ,they shall not yet possess the sky;Nigeria must copy from this advice,not as our children do these days,by going 2 cosmopolitan cities,and 4getting their very roots dat made them.Of Course,Europeanization,Civilization,has made d afrocentric man nuts,bt its a food -for-thought especially for some of us who are not married,yet!
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Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade July 25, 2012 at 11:56 am

Nigeria: I Prefer Indigenous Literatures – Wa Thiong’o
By Yemi Adebisi, 15 January 2011
Lagos — Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is distinguished professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of the International Centre for Writing and Translation at the University of California at Irvine. A Kenyan writer of Gikuyu descent, Ngugi is the author of various novels such as Weep Not Child (1964), The River Between (1965), A Grain of Wheat (1967) and Petals of Blood (1977). In 1980, Ngugi published the first modern novel ever written in Gikuyu called Devil on the Cross. Ngugi’s critical works include Homecoming (1972), Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary (1981), Decolonizing the Mind (1986) and Moving the Center (1993). As a novelist, playwright and critical thinker, Ngugi has dealt with the concerns most affecting his native Kenya including issues of colonialism, nationalism and post-colonialism.
He has severally recommended to African writers to develop indigenous literature. His claim is that African writers need to write in African language in order to project her rich culture to the whole world. No wonder he prefers to read literatures written in his local language, Gikuyu.
In his response to what his thoughts are about contemporary fiction in Kenya and the more recent texts in Gikuyu that have had an impact on him, he said, “There are several writers who now write in Gikuyu. Ms. Waithira Mbuthia is very prolific. But so is Gitahi Gititi, now a professor of English, but writing in Gikuyu. Mwangi Mutahi is another who has published three novels in Gikuyu. There is also Gatua wa Mbugua, a poet and a scientist. He has just completed and successfully defended a scientific thesis written entirely in Gikuyu for the Department of Crop Science at Cornell. There are many more. Most of these writers are contributors to the Gikuyu language journal, Mutiiri, originally based at New York University, but now at the University of California Irvine.”
During the late 70’s, his commitment to art and community led him to form communal theatre groups in villages, which showcased some of his most indicting plays. These works portrayed the political corruption of post-colonial life in Kenya and the people’s struggle to define an identity despite years of harsh political and social transitions. In 1977, Ngugi was arrested for his involvement with the communal theatres. While in prison, Ngugi reflected on the urgency in forming a truly African literature and at the same time wrote Devil on the Cross on prison- issued toilet paper. He subsequently would abandon English for his native Gikuyu for all his future novels. After being released from prison, Ngugi lost a university position and his family suffered from constant harassment. In 1982, Ngugi left Kenya and has been in exile ever since. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is the recipient of numerous awards including the Paul Robeson Award for Artistic Excellence, Political Conscience and Integrity (1992); Gwendolyn Brooks Center Contributors Award for Significant Contribution to the Black Literary Arts (1994); Fonlon-Nichols Prize (1996); and the Distinguished Africanist Award by the New York African Studies Association (1996).


March 15, 2012

Ife researchers unveil local language text-to-voice application – 234next

Move over twitter. Nigerian texters unhappy that their messages can only be accessed by people able to read in English Language can now breathe easier as local researchers have concluded work on an application that renders texts in local languages in audio.

To help secure, protect, and bring back most of the local languages that are going into extinction, Information and Communication Technology researchers at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, last week unveiled the technology through which texts are converted into voice messages in Nigerian indigenous languages by the recipient’s handset.

The research work is led by Tunji Odejobi, a local computer expert in constraint satisfaction and programming and Rick Wallace, a professor at the Cork University, Ireland.

“Even if you don’t even know how to read and write in the formal sense of it, the technology can leverage that,” Mr Odejobi said.

“So technology has redefined what we call literacy now. But the key item in this is the use of language. If you want to a local language that doesn’t speak your language, then you can use technology to get your mind across to such people. That is what we have done. You can use what we are doing today to achieve such communication in various languages between the sender and receivers of a message. If we don’t do this, we are just going to kill our languages silently. It can help smoothen the culture by having common language of communication and giving other languages a place to showcase their values and culture too,” he added.
Source: 234next news
August 15, 2011 By Bunmi Awolusi


March 5, 2012

Nigeria: Igbo Language Law Debuts in Anambra
By Chukwujekwu Ilozue, 7 June 2010

Onitsha — Principals of secondary schools in Anambra State who promote pupils from Junior Secondary School III (JSS III) to Senior Secondary School I (SSS I) without the pupils passing Igbo language are to be removed from their positions and fined N5,000, for each of the pupils so promoted.

Also, any state or privately owned tertiary institution in the state which is found not to have established an Igbo language department or made Igbo language a mandatory general studies course by September, 2011 shall pay a fine of N100,000 for every month in which the offence continues.

These are some of the punishments prescribed by the newly enacted law, which is cited as Igbo Language Enforcement Law, 2010, which came into force on May 11, 2010.

It would be recalled that Governor Peter Obi signed the Bill into Law on the day he launched Suwakwa Igbo (speak Igbo) designed to enhance wide usage of Igbo language to save it from extinction.

At the public signing of the Bill into Law Obi also announced the stoppage of corporal punishment to students who speak Igbo in schools in the state and announced that Igbo Language would henceforth be compulsory in all the categories of educational institution in the state just as English and Mathematics are.

Among other things, the law prescribes that Igbo language as a subject must be passed by an Igbo student before he can be promoted from JSS III to SSS I in all secondary schools in the state; every state or privately owned tertiary institution in the state must establish an Independent department of Igbo language a mandatory general studies course in the institution and that any state or privately owned tertiary institution within the state and which is found not to have established an Igbo language department, or made Igbo language a mandatory general studies course in accordance with the provisions of the relevant sections by September, shall be liable to a fine of N100,000 for every month in which the offence continues.

Also, a head of the relevant department who finds a staff of that department dressed in Western attire in contravention of the provisions of a particular section of the law shall send that staff home to change into an Igbo traditional attire.

Also, from the commencement of the law, every Wednesday in every week shall be observed as Igbo day. That means that every staff of the state public service shall dress in Igbo traditional attire and all businesses and transactions in all offices and departments of the public service, including proceedings in the legislative chamber shall be conducted in the language.

However, the law excludes some professional bodies like judicial officers and nurses which are bound by the law.

The explanatory note of the law states that it is meant to ensure and enforce such level of fluency and vibrancy in the usage of Igbo language as befits its status as one of the three officially recognized indigenous languages of Nigeria pursuant to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 such that the language will once more be proudly spoken and written by Ndigbo in Nigeria and the Diaspora, and used for broadcasts in reputable international media.

Recently, Governor Obi also promised to build Chief Chiedozie Ogbalu Igbo Language School that will cost the government N50.5 million for specialized and holiday programmes in Igbo.


November 10, 2011

Biko nu, onye obula jisie ike subakwa Igbo!

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: chinelo ugochukwu
Sent: Thu, July 1, 2010 4:03:02 AM
Subject: [IgboWorldForum] When Promotion Of Igbo Language Got The Biggest Boost Ever

To: IgboEvents@yahoogro
Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 11:02 PM

When Promotion Of Igbo Language Got The Biggest Boost Ever

By Chukwujekwu Ilozue

The former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Pita Ejiofor, has almost devoted his entire life to the promotion and survival of Igbo language. Ejiofor said he began the crusade when it became a shame that most children of Igbo extraction could neither speak, nor write their language. This is coupled with warnings from the United Nations and a study by the Oxford University which revealed that if no extra effort is made, Igbo language will go into extinction.

Thereafter, Ejiofor championed the cause for the revival and sustenance of Igbo language among Igbo people in Nigeria. This led to the formation of ‘Otu Subakwa Igbo’ (a group that champions speaking of Igbo language) on February 14, 2006. As his campaign spread throughout Igbo land, Subakwa Igbo soon changed to Suwakwa Igbo, which Ejiofor explained is the central Igbo spoken across the entire Igbo land and he has devoted his time and resources to the course ever since. Ejiofor has a fore-runner though, in late Chief Chidozie Ogbalu who was one of the foremost promoters of Igbo language and culture through writing of several text books in Igbo language. Also before now, the State House of Assembly passed a resolution entrenching the conduct of the House business in Igbo language on Wednesdays.

Nevertheless, the biggest boost to promotion of Igbo language and culture ever was recorded Wednesday, Afor market day, 26 May, 2010 when Otu Suwakwa Igbo was launched at the Women Development Centre, Awka by Governor Peter Obi. That day, Obi not only threw the weight of the state government behind Otu Sawakwa Igbo, but publicly signed into law a Bill to Enforce the Speaking and Writing of Igbo and Wide spread Usage of Igbo Language among Ndigbo in Anambra and Diaspora. It is to be cited as ‘The Igbo Language Usage Enforcement Law 2010’, which had earlier been passed by the state House of Assembly and was supposed to have come into force on May 11..

The law provides that Principals of secondary schools in Anambra State who promote pupils from Junior Secondary School III (JSSIII) to Senior Secondary School I (SSSI) without those pupils passing Igbo language are to be removed from their positions and fined N5,000, for each of the pupils so promoted.

Also, any state or privately owned tertiary institution in the state which is found not to have established an Igbo language department or made Igbo language a mandatory general studies course by September, 2011, shall pay a fine of N100,000 for every month in which the offence continues.

Among other things, the law banned administering of corporal punishment to students who speak Igbo in schools in the State. It made Igbo Language compulsory in all the categories of educational institutions in the State just as English and Mathematics. Also a head of the relevant department who finds a staff of that department dressed in Western attire in contravention of the provisions of a particular section of the law shall send that staff home to change into Igbo traditional attire. However, the law excludes some professional bodies like judicial officers and nurses whose dress code is bound by the law.

From the commencement of the law, every Wednesday in every week shall be observed as a week’s Igbo day. That means that every staff of the state public service shall dress in Igbo traditional attire and all business and transaction in all offices and departments of the public service, including proceedings in the legislative chamber shall be conducted in Igbo language that day.

The explanatory note of the law states that it is meant to ensure and enforce such level of fluency and vibrancy in the usage of Igbo language as befits its status as one of the three officially recognized indigenous languages of Nigeria pursuant to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, such that the language will once more be proudly spoken and written by Ndigbo in Nigeria and Diaspora, and used for broadcasts in reputable international media.

Besides, Obi promised to send a bill to the House of Assembly to make it compulsory for job seekers on Grade Level 07 to possess at least a pass level in West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination or National Examination Council of Nigeria (NECO) or General Certificate of Education (GCE) and other qualifications for other levels. Local Government Heads of Department should organize seminars and workshops on Igbo language, while the communiqué produced by Otu Subakwa Igbo should be implemented.

At the event, Governor Obi also promised to build Chief Chidozie Ogbalu Igbo Language School that will cost the government about N50.5million, for specialized and holiday programmes in Igbo. Last week Obi followed up his promise to build the Language school by launching it. The Chidozie Oghbalu Igbo Language Centre, he said is a school where children who do not know how to speak the language take short courses during holidays.

In his four page address written and delivered in Igbo at the occasion, Obi told the audience that as they have themselves heard that Igbo language will go into extinction in a few years to come did not sound nice. He said that no other tribe will save Igbo language except Igbo people themselves and time is now to do that as time and tide waits for no one. After asking the audience which was chaired by the Chairman of Traditional Rulers’ Council, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe comprised about 70 traditional rulers, Ohaneze Ndigbo chieftains and many other dignitaries if they wanted Igbo language to survive and they chorused in the affirmative, Obi gave 12 options to promote the language.

Among them Obi said is that when two or more Igbo people are discussing their language of communication should be Igbo and not even an admixture of Igbo and English. Parents should use Igbo to communicate to their children at home and should at all times avoid such sayings as “say hello to uncle”, or “Junior does not understand Igbo”, as that is an insult to Igbo language.

As the state has already declared Wednesdays as Igbo week’s day when traditional dresses and businesses are conducted in Igbo, government he said was adding Tuesday to it because things have spoilt a lot.

The various towns and villages should write and present their address to government officials in Igbo. They should also write programme of events, orations, citations all in Igbo in ceremonies. He asked state owned radio and television stations to emulate their counterparts in the North and in the West in promoting the use of local languages

The Igbo video cassettes produced by Otu Suwakwa Igbo are to be mass produced by government and sold at give away prices to workers to listen to with their families and apply what they learn from them. Traditional rulers as custodians of Language and Culture should strive to protect the language during ceremonies and while receiving dignitaries of other states.

Obi announced immediate offer of employment for all holders of Bachelor’s degrees, Higher National Diploma and National Diplomas of Igbo language. He also announced annual award of N250,000, N200,000, and N100,000 to the three best Igbo students in Secondary Schools in Nigeria. He also gave cash donations and scholarships to University level to the two best Igbo students in WAEC recently namely: Mr. Kevin Anozie of Holy Child Secondary School, Isuofia, and Mr. Chika Echeta of Bishop Onyemelukwe Secondary School Onitsha.

Obi praised Otu Suwakwa Igbo for committing their intellect, efforts and resources in sponsoring, spreading and sustaining of Igbo language. He announced that from then on, government will give the group monthly subvention and recognize the efforts it has made so far.

Expectedly Prof. Ejiofor could not hold his joy that his dream of attracting enough attention and assistance in his struggle to keep Igbo language alive has come true. He thanked Obi for his interest in Igbo cause. Using statistics, he sought to prove that Igbo Language is retrogressing and that only Igbo people will stop the retrogression.

The President of Ohaneze Worldwide, Ambassador Ralph. Uwechue who was represented by the Anambra State chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo Dr. Atamuo thanked the governor for his commitment to Igbo cause and the able way he pilots the affairs of the State and asked him to use his position as chairman of South East Governors’ Forum to follow his footstep.

Obi’s efforts in sustaining Igbo language has not passed unnoticed. A writer from Imo state, Mr. Eugene Iwuamanam described it as ‘innovative and a very sound idea of the Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi (Okwute) Obi to encourage sustenance of Igbo language and culture, it is no gain saying that he has written his name on the moon and sun”. Iwuamanam said Obi “has become an illuminating arrow that God perfected and shot directly into ala Igbo to illuminate its four corners, bringing loaves of bread of hope to the hopeless, and heal long time gaping wounds of despair”. He said he has read and heard several empirical achievements of this governor which shows that he leads even when his peers turn inwards looking into and out for their pockets. ‘Some times one feels like wishing that ala Igbo should return to the former East Central State with one Governor called Peter/ Okwute Obi”, he wrote.

Also a community leader, Chief Azubikes Okoye, who is also the President General of Agulu Peoples Union commended the measure and particularly Prof. Ejiofor for his committment to the project and the wonderful work he is doing through Suwakwa Igbo organisation.

Okoye lamented the gradual dying of Igbo langauge and blamed parents who would rather make sure their children learn English and other foreign langauges than Igbo and described as scandalous, a situation where in an Igbo family, English is the official language of communication.

He said that the signing of the law to promote the usage of Igbo in Anambra and Diaspora was a mastersroke by Governor Obi and everybody who is Igbo should be proud of the Governor, especially as he showed practical seriousness over the matter, by making Igbo language compulsory in all the schools, private and public, in the State; by making the langaueg a compulsory part of the General Studies in the higher institutions in the State; by offering annual cash awards in his personal capacity to the best candidates in Igbo language in all the secondary schools in Nigeria; by abolishing corporal punishments for those that speak igbo in their schools, among other measures.

He singled out the building of Ogbalu Igbo Langauge School by the Governor as one project all Igbo sons and daughters should encourage. Like Atamuo Chief Okoye appealed to Obi to use his good offices as the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum to persuade other Igbo Governors to replicate what he has done in Anambra State in their states. He also encouraged him to put on the agenda for the South East Governors forum future meetings the issue of Igbo langauge and culture#

Thu Jul 1, 2010 8:22 am

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March 7, 2011


Thursday, March 03, 2011

2011 Where is Tunde Adegbola? Our linguistic heritage is dying!

Luqmaan K. O. Babalola
January 05, 2011
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Where is Tunde Adegbola? Our linguistic heritage is dying!

I had my first child in 1999. The little boy was growing up in an English speaking Yoruba family. My elder brother one day said to me: e je ki omo yin gbo Yoruba a. His message was quite clear, but the vogue then in Lagos was (and still is) English language and it was a pride even if your child cannot say a word in Yoruba or any other mother tongue. I did not see anything wrong in that until sometimes back around 2003 (I do not remember precisely), a fine gentleman, Tunde Adegbola, was at the Science Lecture Theatre of our university (of Ilorin) with a campaign for the resurgence of African languages and their integration into modern ICTs. I cannot recall from his talk but have culled from his webpage that the “core objectives of the African Languages Technology Initiative (Alt-i) encompass the need to make modern ICTs relevant to African Languages. As we go further into the information age, more and more human communication will be mediated by machines, and this will raise the demand, not only for humans to communicate through machines but also to communicate with machines. There is no reason whatsoever why we should be made to do this in English. In order to achieve these modes of communication in African languages however, there is a need to supplement the present objectives of the study of linguistics in African universities. Within the contexts of the linguistics of African languages, we need to develop frameworks and theories that can be passed on to and used by practitioners in Human Language Technology (HLT). To this end, Alt-i is involved in developing the relevant human and other intellectual resources to facilitate this process.”
I however recall that Tunde noted that regrettably many African languages are creeping into extinction and are being replaced by the Oyinbo language of the poorest and most disgusting standards. While appreciating Tunde’s efforts and initiatives on the ICT issues, it is the possibility of the African languages going into extinction that is of great concern in this piece. Let me be particular about the Yoruba elites of today. These are a people gradually consigning their language to dustbin of history. Many homes, even at home in Nigeria, no longer know Yoruba as a medium of communication. In fact they do not feel anything wrong with saying “my son does not speak Yoruba”. Some of them will say “he understands but cannot speak it”. They pride not only in speaking English language but in not being able to speak Yoruba. Sad and indeed very sad! Pathetic and too damn shameful! I have patiently studied issues about this unwholesome trend. I have asked questions: why the drift towards English language (and consequent abandonment of the local language even at homes) and what gains there are (if any) in the drift. The objective is not to advocate a change of our lingua franca, but to call attention to issues needing awareness: the fact that our local languages must necessarily be preserved and valued.
I have discovered that the people’s thinking is that since English is our official language as a nation and that it must be passed at credit level at the WASCE/SSCE before admission into any higher institution in the country, then the better if parents begin to speak it to their children right from home, nay right from birth. I do not know and have not found any better justification for the trend. Maybe some others may think speaking English language makes you fashionable, I do not know. But the thinking that speaking a language affords an opportunity for a pass in an examination is too damn shallow, only driven by zeal and never by knowledge. Think about it: a language spoken to a growing child is acquired by the child as indigenous language. He does not understand the technicalities of the language – just like our forefathers speak their various dialects and were unable to even read their “i” if stood before them like the (Nigerian) electric pole. It is for this reason that village school children who never heard English language spoken in their homes but have the rare opportunity of being well trained in its structures, may often do well and better than their city counterparts, whose adopted first language is the Queen’s. And needless to say there is not any good result from this approach to learning our national language. And how can there be? When, unspeakably laughable, the English language being spoken in many Yoruba homes today is not the type that can pass anyone in any examination, not even the school leaving certificate examination as it is evident in our nation’s educational system today.
I remember Tunde seized the audience when he started reeling out versions of English language of his own tribe – the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The large theatre was rent with crackling laughter as he mentioned something like (I do not remember precisely): “go and open the door down”, “don’t play rough play o”, “it is two, two naira”, “be going o” and “go and work your work”. Even the uneducated are convinced they have to try. They are encouraged not to feel shy, to just try and speak English language even if heavens will fall. What about the half-educated? Ha! It is real drama if you have an opportunity to listen. Isn’t it funny how our people think? Should you have a chance to see the written English language of our students in the tertiary institutions, you would definitely wonder if anything has been achieved via this approach to learning, nay if more harm than good has not been done. Many can no longer write formal letters or what used to be known as “application letters”. In fact asking them to write a report is close to asking them to climb up the firmaments. This is in spite of the fact some of them speak the Queen’s language almost naturally, having been nurtured in an elite home.
That everyone is in so much romance with a foreign language (or English, in particular) has its connotations. One, we are losing our native language and, two; we may not be gaining any as a people. Maybe we are inventing a new English language is the best that can be said of us. And there shall be no thanks for that – not from the Queen, whose language is being bastardized by a people ashamed of their identity, nor the identity-conscious people of Yoruba origin. Even if perfection is attained in a foreign language, it shall not suffice for us to reduce our mother tongue to mere figments of history. So where is Tunde Adegbola? Let him speak out loud against this drift. Let him seize every opportunity to tell the people to identify with their own. Let him make use of all media and concerned individuals to carry on the campaign for the renaissance of the Yoruba language. Let the government support this cause. Let individuals also lend their hands in their little ways – speaking the language and encouraging it at least. I have joined in the cause. I talk to people about it. I speak it except when otherwise necessary – maybe officially. I remember particularly mentioning it in a mosque class, emphasizing that there should not be so much preference for a language over the other to the extent of almost strangulating one. The Qur’an mentions that difference in tongues of humankind is a sign from their Lord. So let no one language submerge or consume the other. A people whose language is lost is a people whose identity is lost.
For the sake of information, we must know that the mother-tongue preservation campaign transcends any race. Peoples of the world are becoming conscious of the danger of losing a heritage as important as the tongue. I had a privilege of visiting the Republic of Ireland and found the Irish complaining of losing their Irish language to the English during the colonial era – I never knew the Irish were also colonized by the English. They are also making serious effort at bringing back to life their lost heritage. We must also know that the many nations of the world which pass on knowledge by the medium of the native languages are not made backward by that. Or what can anyone say of China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Russia and others, who do scientific researches and communicate their results in their languages. These nations have not lagged a bit due to their choice of medium of communication. Rather, doing this has facilitated their processes of learning. We can do same if given proper consideration. I had a rare opportunity of seeing that there are scripts (the Japanese for example) that run vertically, top to down, simply because they are not lost. The diversity enables much more appreciation of our make as humans and the nature. I must repeat, however, that changing our national language is not what is being advocated in this article. Rather the advocacy is that, at the least, our local tongues must not be allowed to give way. We must encourage learning them in every way we can. I have however heard people complain about the content of Yoruba language as a discipline in our tertiary institutions – that those fetishes of the Yoruba culture are being taught as part of language training! I have seen students rejecting studies in Yoruba language for this singular reason. I think this should be discouraged to enable more and more individuals to pick interest in learning the language. Our policy makers should leave fetish to the its people and allow our language to be studied by all interested.
The Hausa people of northern Nigeria here deserve a commendation for their tenacity with their linguistic heritage. They demonstrate real affection for their language every place and every time. How marvelous a people! They go even a step further, extending love and affection to aliens who speak their language. I am not sure, but I am disposed to believing the Hausa people will speak their native tongue, at least, in their homes even in foreign lands. This is an attitude that is commendable and preserving of the Hausa culture and tradition. It is in sharp contrast with the attitude of the Yoruba people to their own. They show grave disdain to tribesman who chooses to communicate with them in Yoruba! Sometimes they bully: “speak in English, please!” Sometimes you don’t need to be told you have to speak English language before them, their countenances tell you straight you have to change your language to English especially when you visit their offices. I remember a school friend said to me he cannot marry a woman whose English is not sound. Why? Everyone in his family speak English, even the grandparents, so could not imagine his woman not being able to communicate with family members (who are Yoruba) in fine English! What a people!
I should mention on the last note that the day Tunde gave his talk, I got home and said to my wife: “kosi oyinbo siso ninu ile yi mo”. She thought I was joking until I told her about Tunde’s campaign and reminded her of her own “don’t play rough play o”. She then surrendered. I made it a point of duty not to speak English language except officially so much so that people ordinarily assume, with my choice of language and cultural appearance, I am not likely to be educated. I am happy with that and I feel fulfilled, rather than wearing the emblem of a different people. Unfortunately, I must confess, I have not fully recovered from the loss of many years (until 2003) as I still struggle to find the choice words in my rich Yoruba language. As for “owe” (proverbs) and “asayan oro”, the creams of the Yoruba language, many would really need deliverance as the Pentecostals would say. This is the extent of the damage to our linguistic heritage! Yoruba ro o nu o.
Luqmaan K. O. Babalola teaches Pure Mathematics at the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
070 5807 9297

posted on 01-07-2011, 11:58:39 AM
Prof penkelemess
Re: Where is Tunde Adegbola? Our linguistic heritage is dying!


I hope we get a lively debate going on this.

will try to contribute my little bit later.


gerd meuer

posted on 01-07-2011, 22:38:05 PM
Nigeria on my mind
Re: Where is Tunde Adegbola? Our linguistic heritage is dying!
The fact that English is a mandatory requirement for admission into institutions of higher learning is a travesty in our academic philosophy. I remember a school mate who was an engineering major in my school days decades ago, before the explosion of cultism, before the degradation of scholastic standards, whose inadequate score in English prevented him from securing admission to a University. His situation was noteworthy because he had passed the subjects most pertinent to his major (physics, chemistry and maths) with flying colors. Many other brilliant scholars of the time were equally victimized.

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March 3, 2011

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Wednesday April 2, 2003

Microsoft to Deliver Windows, Office in Major Nigerian Languages

Microsoft has announced that it will deliver Language Interface Packs that will soon make Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office packages more locally-relevant and easier to understand for Nigerian end users in commemoration of the International Mother Language Day in Nigeria.

The disclosure was made when Jummai Umar-Ajijola, citizenship manager for Microsoft Nigeria led a team of Microsoft partners to make a presentation to the Chairman, Education Committee, House of Representatives, and Honourable Faruk Lawan in Abuja. The visit which also included a visit to the Federal Ministry of Education was part of the activities to mark the Mother Language Day, where the team was received by Alhaji Bello Ozigis, Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education on behalf of Hajiya Aisha Dukku Minister of State for Education.

Microsoft is working closely with the Linguistic Association of Nigeria and other advocates to complete work on the Language Interface Packs for the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba languages, which will be compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office Word.

Hajiya Aisha, Honourable Minister of State for Education, is currently one of the championing forces behind the language program and presented the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba glossaries to stakeholders in Abuja last December.

According to Dr. Tunde Adegbola of Alt-i, who is the moderator of the localisation process in Nigeria, the Windows Interface Packs are on track to be released this May, and the Office Interface Packs are scheduled for release later in October.

Honourable Lawan while speaking at the day’s festivities on behalf of the Honourable Speaker, House of Representatives, commended Microsoft for the continued efforts to grow a strong local IT industry and ensure that every citizen has fair and meaningful access to locally-relevant technology.

“Functional education and specialized training are the pre-requisites for a productive workforce, and good leaders. It is the only way to create a populace that is successful in all spheres of human life. All these cannot be achieved without understanding. This is the critical role that language plays. We are therefore committed to ensuring that everyone has access to functional education in language familiar to them. We commend Microsoft for the great initiative to bring technology to everyone through the Local Language Program,” Honourable Lawan said.

Microsoft’s Citizenship Lead for Nigeria, Jummai Umar-Ajijola added that governments around the world are facing a great challenge in today’s global economy – the need to quickly build a strong economy that can effectively participate in an increasingly-interconnected world.

“In an environment as diverse as Nigeria – with over 500 ethnic languages – the need to eliminate the language barrier around technology education is critical to the success of the efforts to bridge the digital divide.

“It is in the light of this need that Microsoft developed the Local Language Program to provide the tools and technologies required to develop, enhance, and expand local IT economies and to enable language groups of all sizes to participate in this growth,” she said.

Articles 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Declare that all persons have the right to express themselves and to create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice, and particularly in their mother tongue.

According to Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO, “Languages do indeed matter in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which the United Nations agreed upon in 2000.

“They matter when we want to promote cultural diversity, and fight illiteracy, and they matter for quality education, including teaching in the mother language in the first years of schooling. They matter in the fight for greater social inclusion, for creativity, economic development and safeguarding indigenous knowledge.”

“We are very excited about the potential that Microsoft’s Local Language Program has for driving technology penetration in Nigeria,” Dr Adegbola added.

“This is a further demonstration of the company’s commitment to supporting the reform agenda of the present administration by transforming education and creating opportunities for local innovation. We are also delighted to be a part of this great project,” he said.


Microsoft has completed work on glossaries for the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba translations of Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007.

By this, Microsoft Windows and the four applications in Microsoft Office 2007- Excel, Word, Powerpoint and Access, can easily be adapted to versions in the three languages.

The firm said a Language Interface Pack that would allow the applications to fully be available in the three languages was in the works and would be delivered in the coming months.

The Supervising Minister of Education, Hajiya Aishatu Dukku, presented the glossaries to stakeholders in Abuja on Wednesday, a development that Microsoft noted was one more landmark in its Local Language Program in Nigeria.

Currently, the LLP scheme is working on 101 languages in the world and five in the West Africa.

According to the Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Mr. Emmanuel Onyeje, the LLP is Microsoft’s response to the need to provide people of all regions, cultures and languages, with access to technology in a language that is familiar and which honours their cultural distinctions.

He said, “Learning a second language should not be a prerequisite for using technology. That is why we are working with governments and language authorities to translate our software and extend it to a broader set of users.

“Through the Local Language Program, we are giving our local communities the tools and resources they need to bridge the digital divide and create opportunities for economic advancement.”

At the presentation of the moderator of the localisation process in Nigeria, Dr. Tunde Adegbola of the African Languages Technology Institute, explained that the glossary and LIP would equip local information technology communities with the basic tools to create customised language solutions that promote economic growth and preserve local languages.

Developed from the glossary, the LIP is the application that connects the local language to the computer, through a native language desktop user interface.

When the process is completed, the LIP will be freely downloadable from the LLP website.

Local solutions can be developed on top of the LIPs, enabling the creation of localised products that enhance the value of each LIP and ensure the successful use of technology.

Adegbola urged the stakeholders to study the glossary, which was developed in collaboration with governments, universities, and language authorities to ensure that the standard technical terminologies had been translated correctly into the local languages.

The Minister of Education, Hajiya Aishatu Dukku, commended Microsoft for the initiative to eliminate the language barrier, which presented a serious challenge for teaching and learning technology at the grassroots.

She further outlined the national policy on education, which recognised the language of the environment as the first language of instruction for the first three years of education with English only taught as a subject.

From the fourth year, English language becomes the language of instruction, while the language of the environment and French are taught as subjects.

She said that with the LLP, teaching technology would be much easier.

The minister said, “There are so many skills we may not be able to transfer except in our local languages. This initiative by Microsoft is a first step for us to start thinking of how we can develop our languages further in order to grow our IT capacity.”

By eliminating the language barrier to technology education through the local language programme, Microsoft believes that many more people will be encouraged to use desktop software in Nigeria’s local communities, improving access to technology.

This will create new economic opportunities, and enriching people’s personal lives. The move will go a long way to bridging the digital divide between the developed and developing communities around the world.

It is expected that the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba language stakeholder groups will review the glossary and work with Microsoft to produce the final copy to move the LLP to the NEXT level.&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
Microsoft launches Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo Vista
Monday, 08 June 2009 02:00 Hamisu Muhammad & Sunday Williams
Microsoft Nigeria has launched a language interface pack for Windows Vista in three major Nigerian languages; Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo as part of its Local Language Programme (LLP).
Launching the pack tagged, “LLP GO-live,” President Umaru Yar’adua who was represented by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Alhassan Bako Zaku said the event is a turning point in the history of technology in the country. He said, “The initiative is a long awaited vehicle to take the benefits of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to the people at the grassroots in every nook and corner of the country. We truly believe that this will make IT solutions more accessible to the Nigerian community. It also represents a breakthrough for Nigerian linguistic and literary studies.”
He called on the people to take advantage of the huge opportunity of the language software to preserve and promote our mother languages while benefiting from continuing IT advancements.
Speaking, the General Manager for Microsoft Anglophone West Africa, Mr. Emmanuel Onyeje said the LLP has created a platform for Nigerians to embrace the now localized process to ensure that more of our over 500 indigenous languages are preserved by translating technology into them.
He said the translation of Microsoft Office in the three languages will be available later this year adding that when it becomes available, it will mean that Nigerians can access the productivity applications including Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint in familiar languages.
He said, “Indeed this is a momentous event for our nation. With the availability of the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba languages interface packs for Microsoft Windows Vista and the Microsoft Office 2007 to come later this year, we finally have a platform that allows a higher critical mass of Nigerian access to technology.”
He explained that the language interface software packs were created by Nigerians (their partners) living in the country.
“We need to move from being consumers to developers. We ensured that this process was localized. The tools are freely available for us to embrace and celebrate our diversity .
Others can now take these tools and develop new applications based on the existing platform,” he said.
Also speaking, Dr. Tunde Adegbola, of African Languages Technology Initiative, said any language that does not provide the tool for intergenerational communication is set to die adding that with the LLP, we are at least assured that the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba languages will survive the next generation.
He said, “The diversity of languages spoken in Nigeria is a key element of our collective identity and is vital that we preserve these traditions while simultaneously equipping our citizens for success in the 21st century.”


February 28, 2011

Arts & Review
‘Yorubas must ensure the survival of their language’

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Written by Adewale Oshodi Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade, a Black American, left the United States in 1978 for Nigeria to embrace the Yoruba way of life. In this interview with Adewale Oshodi, the Chief Librarian of African Heritage Research Library (AHRC) at Adeyipo village, Ibadan, speaks on what made her to leave the United States, why she embraced the Yoruba culture, and why she has not visited America since she left 33 years ago. Excerpts:

[Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade]

Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade
You are a Black American who relocated to Nigeria in 1978, but don’t you think that it is rather ironic that you chose to come to Africa, when Africans themselves are struggling to migrate to America?
Any black person who is in the white man’s country is a slave to white people, and by the time I was 19, I said my children would never be slaves to white people, because in reality, we were their slaves, and that is how they still treat black people till today. There is no freedom for black people, and the way they treat us is just so bad, and I decided that my children would grow up in Africa. So, by 19, I had decided that I was coming to Yorubaland because I was told by Black Americans who were practising Yoruba religion that Yoruba is the best culture in the world, as well as the best language. So that was when I decided that my children were going to grow up with the culture and speak the language, and they would never be slaves to white people.

So, in 1978, I arrived in Nigeria. Then, my children were very young and I told them they must stop speaking English in the house and speak only the Yoruba language. So they spoke Yoruba. They call me Iya mi (my mother) because I told them I didn’t want to hear any word of English in the house, like mummy, and all other words that Yorubas are using to mix and destroy the language. I didn’t allow it. Now, my children are grateful for being brought up in the Yoruba culture. Even though they are back in America, they said the culture has really helped them. It has given them a sense of belonging. Now, I am confident that one day, they will also return to Yorubaland.

You are in Nigeria now, but how often do you visit America?
I have not gone back for once because I don’t want to be anybody’s slave. I just want to be me. I love my freedom here. The racism is still very strong in the white man’s country, especially in America. So, since 1978, I have been here. I have been enjoying Yorubaland. I have never suffered for once here like I suffered while in America. I am respected by the people around me.

You speak the Yoruba language fairly well..
I don’t speak it fairly well; I must tell you the truth, and that is the only problem I have with Yoruba people. If you don’t learn to speak the languagequickly,they stop trying to teach you,say you never can learn it and speak to you in english! So in that regards, they are yet to cooperate with me but I am pledging to speak only Yoruba by

Now, one of the problems we are having with the language is that Yoruba parents encourage their children to speak only the English language. What do you have to say to this?
That is how they are destroying the language, and they will be slave to English and white people forever. Once you take up another man’s language, you will become a slave to the real owners of the language.

What do you find interesting in the Yoruba culture?
Yoruba culture is the best in the world. Yorubas were in Egypt. The culture is the most developed in Africa, and that means it is the best in the world; I must tell you that the white culture is not developed. The Asian culture is also developed, but nothing compares with the African culture.

Do you still maintain contacts with your friends in America despite leaving there 33 years ago?
Of course, we are still very much in contact. I tell them everyday why they should return home to Africa. Africa is home to blacks all over the world. I tell them I am ready to help get them settled, and a lot of them are ready to come now because the racism is just so bad, and because I have coped really well here for 33 years, they say it means the place is not that terrible.

Since you came, was there a day you regretted your decision to relocate to Africa?
Not even once. The black man should be in the black man’s land. There is no way a black person can be happy in a white country. No matter how rich the black man is; no matter how successful he is, he is still not respected. They can pick him up anytime and say he robbed a bank, and then get him jailed without any evidence of him committing any crime. Those Nigerians who are abroad, majority of them are only working for the money, so after a while, they will raise some money, put up a structure back at home and then return when they feel they have achieved a degree of financial success.

And you were not discouraged by the lack of infrastructure, the lack of electricity, among other things, coming from a country that has everything?
First of all, freedom is the most important thing in life. If you have never been free, like the blacks in America, and you come to a place where you are free, will you be talking about electricity? Although there are some Black Americans who come here, and they dwell on the lack of infrastructure, but that is not for me. I want my children to be free. Everything is here for me. I cherish the culture, the language, and the respect people give me. Everywhere I go, I am respected. A black is not respected in America. Some people even wonder how I can be living in the village. But for me, freedom comes first.


October 19, 2010


Old play, new language
Edozie Udeze 17/10/2010 00:00:00

Who is Afraid of Solarin? a play by Professor Femi Osofisan, has always been a symbolic one. It is so because it is a comic treatise on what makes Nigeria and Nigerians unique. In the play, Osofisan uses plenty of comic scenes and statements to portray the story of a society where things work upside down. The name Solarin is used symbolically because of his role in trying to give a better direction to Nigerians and to the Nigerian state. The play chronicles Nigeria’s many socio-political problems in such a way that the audience are made to feel the impact while the play is on stage. You can’t help but laugh and hiss and then wonder the sort of society Nigeria is and why the people are what they are.

This was why it was selected as the independence play this year by the trio of Mufu Onifade, Tunde Kelani and the Lagos State government. However, the play which was translated into the Yoruba language by Dotun Ogundeji as Yeepa! Solaarin Nbo!!, is meant to send home the message to the larger Yoruba theatre audience.

In this new experiment, the message is supposed to sink deeper, so that people who love to see the lighter side of Nigerian myriad of problems dramatized on stage, would have a better view of it. The few days the play was on stage in Lagos last week proved that a lot of people were really eager to laugh away the problems of the society. Not only that the artistes led by Ropo Ewenla were on top of their game on stage, the large turnout of theatre lovers showed that the choice of the play was apt and appropriate.

To make the play appeal more to the audience, the producers introduced an opening glee. This marriage of convenience between opening glee and full-length drama presentation was Mainframe and National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) Lagos chapter’s synergetic way of joining the Lagos State government in celebrating the 50th independence anniversary of Nigeria. This way, there was no moment of boredom. The artistes were able to appeal to the audience to wake up to the realities of the moment; to make Nigeria great.

Is this Nigeria of our dreams in 1960? That seemed to be the question raised on stage by the actors. Ewenla, the lead character was able to convince the audience that we need to do more; we need to work harder and be more honest to make Nigeria a better place for all and sundry.
Yeepa! Is an exclamation that something hilarious or ominous is about to happen and that people should sit up to welcome it. This situation calls for an acclaim, calling the Nigerian people that there are more than meet the eye. Solarin was an enigma of some sort when he was alive. Although the name is hyperbolic in a way, it goes to portray a visionary leader who saw long before now what the Nigerian society portended. Now the play in his name says it all.

Anywhere this play goes on stage, the euphoric appeal it gives leaves much to be desired. The Yoruba version of it also did much more; the message seeped deeper into the fabric of the audience whose laughter and hisses tore deep into the night. And so, it is kudos to Onifade for his sense of humour and wisdom. The play truly helped to embellish the mood of the moment and bring Nigerians back to that moment of reflection.

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October 18, 2010

original from

Film to the rescue of indigenous languages
The Arts Oct 17, 2010

For Nigerian indigenous languages to be preserved and saved from total extinction, there is an imperative need for the government at all levels to encourage the production of indigenous language films reports, Benjamin Njoku.

This was the observation of over 300 film makers, scriptwriters, directors, stakeholders and industry operators who gathered in Akure, Ondo State capital last week, for this year’s edition of the annual, Behind the Screen festival of indigenous languages, now known as, Festival of Indigenous African Language Films.

The festival, which held between October 3 and October 9, at Owena International Hotels, Akure saw the participants drawn from different parts of the country urging the government at all levels to consider the option of giving Nigeria’s indigenous language films a boost as a way of preserving such languages as well as saving them from total extinction as presently being threatened by global statistics.

They also asked the government to begin to pay more attention to the motion picture industry, which according to them, has not only brought global recognition to the country but also, is capable of becoming a veritable alternative to oil economy.

Professor Tunde Babwale, Director-General of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation(CBAAC) who chaired the occasion posited the need for government to support film makers, noting that indigenous language films are critical to the development of any nation. He lamented the steady relegation of these languages, arguing that out of the 500 languages spoken across the ethnic groups in the country, only 84 of them are still in use.

Arguing further, Professor Babawale whose parastatal co-sponsored the event said the use of African indigenous films is also a means of propagating African tradition, culture and norms. “Promotion of our indigenous languages are the manual of development. There is no better way to market our country and our culture other than through film. It has a two fold ways of communication ; audio and visual.” he emphasized.

On CBAAC partnership with Remdel, organisers of the annual festival, Professor Babawale said, Remdel shares similar vision with CBAAC. “This is not our first partnership we were part of the festival last year. We want to use this film festival to project African culture and we also want to use it as an opportunity to show that our language can help in enriching our faith. We believe that there no better way to preserving our cultural heritage than the instrumentality of langauge.”Professor Babawale further stressed.

In her good will message, the wife of the Ondo State Governor, Mrs Olukemi Mimko, while commending the organisers of the 6-day event for taking the lead and for the bold step which would also bring the state to limelight urged parents and guidance to endeavour to teach their wards how to speak the local languages. She observed that despite the fact that “film serves as a medium of correcting societal ills, communication, relaxation and dissemination of information, it has equally found its way into our very existence such that the politicians are now using the film makers to achieve their political ambition.”

The First Lady however took a swipe at the state of th industry, lamenting the rate at which producers churn out obscene movies.

She observed that most of the movies are gradually eroding the rich cultural values of Nigeria, most especially the Yoruba culture, which she said, lays much emphasis on moderate dressing.

While advocating the need for the film makers to control the content of their works, the First Lady said obscene scenes are gradually eroding the qualitative works of the industry. She therefore urged the relevant agency saddled with the content check of the films to put in place a strict measure that would sanction producers who shoot obscene films.

Delivering a lecture entitled “Like Father Like Son: Random Reflection on Yoruba Society and the Yoruba Video-Films”, Professor Wole Ogundele, the Director-General of the Centre for Culture and International Understanding, Osogbo, Osun State, concluded that given the danger of extinction faced by African indigenous languages, any positive attempts and strategies to ensure their survival and preservation should be encouraged without any further delay.

According to the erudite Professor, who has a wide and varied knowledge of the film industry, in the absence of a vigorous language literature, the video-film remains one artistic form that is keeping the language alive in the creative and intellectual arena.

“Many African languages, including Yoruba which is spoken by millions of people along the West African coast, are already in danger and will become a threatened language.If it is the indigenous language films that will rescue our languages from that tragedy of eventual extinction, then, rather than crucify the film makers, let us salute them.” he concluded.

Other keynote speakers at the event, included Femi Odugbemi, film maker, who spoke on “The future of Film Distribution in Nigeria”, Mr Dele Oni, General Manager, NTA, Akure, Mr Dele Odule, ANCOP president,Mr Alex Eyengho, Mr Greg Odutayo, president, NANTAP and Dr. Gbemisola Adeoti, who also delivered paper on, “Advancing the role of Women in Politics using the film medium” amongst other speakers.


June 24, 2010

original one -This Day newspaper

This Day (Lagos)
Nigeria: Saving the Local Languages

21 June 2010

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Lagos — One of the strongest effects of western civilization is the gradual but steady erosion of the culture of the people, especially of former colonies. There is no where this has been demonstrated more than in the language of the people.

With western education came the fad of speaking the “whiteman’s language”. In Nigeria for instance, the ability to speak the English language was then, the most ready proof of “belonging” to a social class, high and above the local platform of those considered as mere natives. School children were then forbidden from speaking their local languages in the classroom. Offenders were punished for speaking vernacular. Over the years, this malaise has worsened.

Today, fewer and fewer people are able to speak, let alone write their native languages. If some indigenous languages have suffered poor orthographical development, that should not affect the ability to speak it. But modern day children, especially those in the urban centres now consider their mother tongue as a linguistic anathema.

This and other issues inform former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Munzali Jibril’s warning that unless deliberate measures are taken to preserve and promote Nigerian languages, they stand the risk of going extinct. Already, some languages have “died”, with nobody speaking them anymore.

According to Prof. Jibril, 45 per cent of the world’s population speak only five languages: Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Russian, just as the top 100 languages of the world are spoken by 95 per cent of the world’s people. The remaining five per cent speak over 6,000 languages, with some languages having just about 100 or even less speakers. This, to say the least, is worrisome.

That Nigerian languages are dying is no longer news. The present generation of children are hardly able to understand or communicate in their mother tongues. The craze for the English Language has long become a kind of status symbol. This is even worse among the children of the elite and urban dwellers. Worse still, is the adoption of pidgin English in most cities as the unofficial lingua franca. The blame for this loss is largely on the parents, some of whom are also unable to speak their native languages, and so find it difficult to train their children in their native tongues. Left unchecked, what that means is that generation after generation in such family lineage will miss out on the mother tongue, with the grave and telling effect of a steady but gradual disconnect with the native language.

It is in a bid to rescue the languages from extinction that the Federal Ministry of Education introduced the policy of ensuring that at least, one or two major Nigerian languages are taught in schools. Almost two decades after, this has not quite improved the health of native languages. Prof Babatunde Fafunwa, former Education minister had also directed, at the time, that teachers should give instructions in native languages as a way of building and developing the local languages. But most of the languages are shallow and poorly developed. That has restricted their use as medium of instruction. Worse still, several words in the English Language have no exact equivalent in the native language. For example it may not be easy to find the Yoruba or Igbo equivalent of the word “Chlorine” or “mega watts”?
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* West Africa
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But despite the challenges, Nigerian languages can be revived, at least in the spoken form, until more scholarly attention is devoted to their orthographical development. The place to kick-start this is at the home. Children in their early formative years have Tabula Rasa brain, literally meaning blank memory, on which parents must make initial linguistic imprints.

This is achievable even before the children attain school age. Conscious efforts must be made by parents to speak their native languages to their children, who in turn will grow to cherish the language and pass same on to their children, thereby sustaining the life of the languages. The regulated exposure of the children to Language lessons in the school is not enough to achieve the resuscitation of Nigerian languages. Parents must embrace the habit of speaking the local languages to the children. And the time is now.

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