IT WAS once heard in the United States of American (USA) that an Igbo boy presented a special number in his native language Igbo language in Church. Everybody in he church were marveled and delighted on how the child could be fluent in the language as he has not lived in his Igbo land before coming to US.
Consequently, the boy was conferred with an award showcasing his parent’s native culture. As a gesture of interest by the church authority, the grandmother who had not gotten her Green Card since she went to live with her children in USA was given Green Card to stay and teach other Igbo children the language as a result of his grandchild’s performance.
In a similar instance, Chinenye Nwude from Dunukofia local government area of Anambra state in a workshop organised by Anti-Piracy Society of Nigeria (APSON) who was invited on a stage to ask questions concerning her life spoke in Igbo language irrespective of the fact that she was being asked the questions in English language.
What probably was uppermost in her mind was to demonstrate that the persistent advocacy by “Otu Subakwa Igbo” pioneered by the retired vice chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Professor Pita Ejiofo should be taken seriously and has to be appreciated in every gathering irrespective of the mix-up at the venue.
The way she comported herself in her in delivery spiced with idioms and proverbs and gesticulations trilled the audience who might have been compelled to have a rethink in speaking their mother tongue in public forum.
Chinenye, after narrating her ordeal for not attending school, was promised by APSON that her case would be looked into and could be engaged in electronic media in the state where she would be anchoring Igbo programmes to ensure that Igbo language is being promoted.
It will be recalled that in the time past, people of all the ethnic groups were proud in speaking their languages in public.
But today it has become a fad to see primary school children, especially in private schools, communicating in English language according to the rule in the school ostensibly to give the impression that the school is elitist. Consequently, many of the children hardly communicate in their mother tongue without adding a bit of English language.
In their homes, these misguided children pretend not to know how to speak in their native language because their parents want to be identified as the elites in the society, irrespective of the havoc in the long run. The frightful implication is that these children cannot understand Igbo Igbo idioms and proverbs.
The unfortunate fall-out is that these children do not know the difference in relationships hence they regard every person they see with their parents as “uncles or aunties. If parents could be combining English language and Igbo at home, the children will learn both languages at the same time without losing sight to the importance of knowing their native tongue.
Added to the elitists’ ‘craze’ is the preference for fast foods being given to the children when they are being taken to school instead of the parents woken up earlier to prepare native foods and snacks to make them appreciate Igbo delicacies. Similarly the children are taught to deprecate native music in preference for foreign ones with curious dance steps.
In a research on Igbo language it was observed that Igbo is a language worthy of preservation and learned by children in diaspora. But unfortunately parents outside the country do not see it as importance and the children eventually would lose their mother tongue and become alien to Igbo value system, mores and cultures.
Within Nigeria, children of Igbo parentage are fluent in English, Hausa, Yoruba, among others as their first language but lack interest in speaking Igbo language when they come home during
Christmas and occasions. People are not happy with the state of affairs and would blame parent for denying their children opportunity to know their socio-cultural background to be well-balance personality in the country.
The research also recalled that these parents who live in the society where they are fed with absurd tales and myths in the western world make their children to refrain from speaking their mother tongue.
An author, Ifeoma Obi, observed that many Nigerians complain about how fast Igbo speaking is fading away and the practice of raising their kids with English language could be one factors responsible for it.
She said: “These children speak English language fluently but if you ask them something to respond in their native language they become uncomfortable, even be wishing that their Igbo teacher would miss that day for some reasons simply because they are afraid of writing or speaking Igbo language.
Consequently, the children make poor results in the terminal public examinations. The situation is deteriorating worsening since parents prefer communicating with their children and wards in English language. So how do you expect them to learn since all the avenues for learning is seized,” she queried.
She further observed that “Children living in estates find it difficult to communicate with women who sell things in the area because of the ugly practice of being elitist who regard Igbo language as exhibition of inferiority complex.
“I am advising that parents should speak more of mother tongue to their kids so that they can learn how to speak and become proud of it. People should not believe that speaking native language is a mark of being civilised”.
Ijeoma Ihuoma, a graphics designer, revealed that one reason why children do not communicate in their native language was because of their engagement or interaction with text books in science and technology which are written in English language.
“Their smart-phones, video games, laptop and other technology gadgets are all in English language. So since many of them spend so much time with these gadgets, they don’t have anything to do with the language. This is a challenge to Nigerian developers to design technology gadgets in the indigenous languages”, she suggested.
Emma Oduh, a psychologist said that, “Self identification is very important as far as these kids are concerned. Learning the language at a very tender age will aid children to a better sense of belonging. Through early teaching of the Igbo language to the new generation, we not only pass down our language but also we pass down our cultural heritage, norms, rules and values. Another cause is that a lot of Igbo’s believe that by speaking Igbo around their children on a day to day basis that they would miraculously absorb Igbo language. Mind you, without consciousness attempt to teach these young ones, they would resist learning it because they are surrounded by the essence of different languages in which the predominant one stands to be English,” he pointed out.