• Friday, July 19, 2024
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A case for endangered indigenous languages


No doubt, English Language is a unifying language in most Commonwealth countries especially Nigeria where over 500 indigenous languages are spoken. But the pace at which these indigenous languages are losing out to the English language is alarming. Even, the three major indigenous languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, are not spared.

 A recent UNESCO research shows that on the average, 25 percent of children below 11 years are unable to speak their parents’ indigenous language in Nigeria, and if the trend is not checked, the research notes that Nigerian languages will be in extinction in two to three generations, that is in 50 to 75 years time. Similar alert on the impending extinction of Nigerian languages emerged from this year’s UNESCO International Mother Language Day Celebration in Abuja , when Prof. Chinyere Ohiri-Aniche, president, Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN ) warned that about 400 indigenous languages are likely going into extinction.Of the major Nigerian languages, it appears that Yoruba and Hausa are making efforts at sustaining their relevance, while the Igbo Language seems worst hit as increasingly young ones prefer English to their mother tongue. This sad reality was evident at the two editions of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award where Hausa and Yoruba film producers, actors and actresses were rewarded for their works.

The reason for the absence of Igbo, Efik and other indigenous language categories in the awards, according to Biola Alabi, managing director, M-Net Africa, was that the categories are yet to produce enough movies that will sustain viewership on African Magic channels. It is so because, increasingly fewer youths speak the languages and the trend keeps going down every year leaving the languages more endangered.

Experts believe that the growing extinction of indigenous languages in the country is largely as result of total and unselective westernization and the poor attitude of the now ubiquitous private Primary and Secondary schools to indigenous languages.

Reacting to this growing disdain or neglect of indigenous languages, a commentator notes that “I was mad when my cousin whose children attend an expensive private school asked me not to force his children to speak Yoruba on the ground that he did not pay all that money for them to speak Yoruba. You think those children will ever be proud speaking that language especially if they travel out for their university education”,

 The only way to save Nigeria’s indigenous languages from being extinct is to promote, teach and speak these languages at home and at schools and make the young ones know that these indigenous languages are not inferior to English, French or German, and that they are importantly symbols of Nigerian identity.

The Federal and States’ Ministry of Education should come out with curriculum policies on these indigenous languages requiring every school, public or private to teach indigenous languages and not treat them as inferior.

Every society or culture is preserved through its languages as these convey thoughts, values and mores of these societies. If Nigerians would continue to hold their heads high amongst other peoples of the globe, they have to preserve their true identities. If Indians, Chinese, Japanese don’t throw away their identities in the course of development or relating with the West, then why should Nigerians jettison their own identities? It is noteworthy that Development is not Westernisation.