Commentary: Saving Our Mother Language From Extinction

Commentary: Saving Our Mother Language From Extinction

According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), about six thousand native languages are spoken in the world; but half of these languages are on the verge of extinction as a result of infrequent usage in written, verbal and pictorial communications. Sadly, Igbo language is among them.

This gives Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state as well as some notable Ndigbo and their governments such concern because there is no reason for Igbo to be a threatened language, if not for the way some Ndigbo have misinterpreted the concepts of globalization and civilization.

Most of the languages that are so threatened, as UNESCO and experts in such field have identified, are usually as a result of factors ranging from reducing the population or as a result of natural mishap such as earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides etcetera, resulting in mass deaths. There are also socio-political challenges such as wars and frequent attacks by enemies; and lack of early documentation in modern forms of writing, among others.

To the glory of God however, Ndigbo have not suffered from any of such natural disasters that should lead to the Igbo language going extinct. But for the Nigeria/Biafra war and pockets of insurgencies that are not peculiar to Ndigbo, we have not gotten to the stage of annihilation of the entire Igbo race. How unfortunate then, that we are self-defeating ourselves by allowing our language to die?

No doubt, language elevates, promotes and liberates a people. It is the window of civilization and the condensed code of all the heights of any people’s culture. Therefore, no land progresses without first putting its language ahead.

That was why colonialists and armies of conquest did everything to force their languages on the people they conquered. According to UNESCO, frequent usage in speech and informal communication is what preserves languages, given that the most threatened ones are less documented and used.

According to a Washington Post report, Chinese has more native speakers than any other language, followed by Hindi and Urdu, which have the same linguistic origins in northern India. English follows with five hundred and twenty-seven million native speakers. Arabic is used by nearly one hundred million people.

All these studies and the UNESCO alert suggest that there is no reason why Igbo should be ranked among the challenged languages. If it is in size, the number of native Igbo people is well above the total population of four European nations put together. If it is in commercial usage, the language passes perfectly as the lingua of trade transaction in most Nigerian and sub-Sahara African major markets.

Earlier Igbo scholars did well to document the language in books and publications. The language harbors an immense collection of proverbs, cultural artifacts, axioms and poetry. By many standards, Igbo should be a global dominant language.

Unfortunately, in the carefree attitude of the contemporary generation, we are throwing it away by alienating our children from speaking it. We are fast-forwarding our conquest and delineation by favouring the usage of other languages in our homes and places of work. We are losing it and gobbling our intrinsic treasures by not exposing our children to the rich cultures that made the Chinua Achebes, Christopher Okigbos, Pita Ejiofors and others global legends.

We are selling our tongues today to strangle our profiles tomorrow. It is regrettable that even some leading universities in Igbo land, do not accept credit pass or distinction in Igbo subject in the Ordinary Level School Leaving Certificate Examination in their admission process because the institutions deem Igbo a subject of dullards. Meanwhile, in countries like China, Japan and the Korea, those who excel in scholarship and industry, are those who break down their researches and findings to indigenous languages.

This is why the policy of adoption of Wednesday as special day of usage of Igbo language and dress code in offices in Anambra State by Governor Willie Obiano is highly commendable. Ndigbo, let us speak the Igbo language, let us encourage our children, neighbours, colleagues at work, friends and family to speak it.

Our mother language shall live on!


TDPel Media

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