IMPENDING EXTINCTION OF NIGERIAN LANGUAGES
By: Femi Hassan
This is really an interesting topic. I seriously identify with it. Wahala wa indeed. Right from their infancy, I’ve been speaking Yoruba to my kids but over time, I noticed they don’t like speaking Yoruba because all around them, in school, at the church and the entire community, everybody speaks English. So I oftentimes decided to turn deaf ears to them when they speak English to me and I’ll tell them, “mi o gbo oyinbo”.
Therefore, they’re forced to speak their mother tongue. That’s all they learnt before we moved the US last year and they’re building on it.
I was particularly challenged when I travelled to Vienna, Austria, 3 years ago. While I and my wife were seated at the lounge of the UN House, Vienna, with some black kids obviously with British accent, their Nigerian father arrived and they greeted in him in Yoruba, “e kaabo Sir”. He then asked them, “Iya yin nko”? The eldest of the 3 replied him, “won n bo, won o ni pe se tan”.
I and my wife felt embarrassed because our kids born and bred in Nigeria, could not speak Yoruba so fluently then. I engaged the man in a discussion and to my amazement, he told me his 3 kids were born in Britain before they later migrated to Austria. They had only been to Nigeria once.
Himself and his wife decided that before their kids could start schooling, they must be able to understand and speak Yoruba. So they decided to start speaking Yoruba to them from day 1.
They also agreed that all visitors who come to stay in their house on holiday or on a visit must speak Yoruba to their children. I learnt a lot from this and decided to enforce same rule in my house.
In developed countries like the UK, USA, Canada and many more, you’ll always see the Chinese, Latinos, the Arabs and other races speak their mother tongue to their kids even in public. This is not common among Nigerians
Any time I travel with my family, I speak Yoruba to my kids in public especially when I don’t want the people of other races around to understand what we’re talking about. The children have also known that as our secret code.
Undoubtedly, our mother tongue, whatever it is, is our unique identity, wherever you are all over the world. Let’s not deprive our children of their rich heritage.
Dr Femi Hassan is a medical practitioner. He writes from
Palatine, Illinois, USA.