Monday, 1 August 2011

In the beginning was the word, but now the word has come to an end, in all kinds of different ways. Young people have stopped talking. Instead they email and text.

When it comes to national languages, the loss of diversity is already alarming. What matters, however, is that Igbo is already giving way to English in key, highly prestigious fields of discourse – such as in science and academia and in the social domain.

In Nigeria, in particular, the elite is drifting away from its mother tongue. Children are being raised in English with a view to enrolling them in a global aristocracy. This hugely reduces the standing of Igbo, with far-reaching consequences, also at “lower” levels.

So why learn Igbo?

Language is a core aspect of every culture. Without language, there will be no heart-to-heart connection between species of any kind. The Igbo language is a cultural legacy our forefathers transmitted to us through the annals of time and space. This is an identity that we must keep. The day the Igbo language dies is the day the word 'Igbo' will be no more. Many Igbos are working hard to keep this prophetic 'dying day' from coming to pass; and we hope it never comes. This is important because of the spiritual (social) connection between a language and the people who speak it are inseparable. The Igbo language will survive so long as the Igbo people survive and continue to proudly speak and use their language as their means of daily communication. The survival of the Igbo language will depend on the survival of only those Igbo people who are proud of the language and truly speak the language as a core tool for interaction. That is why there is need for the Igbo to promote Igbo.

So for the past two years I have been attempting to learn Igbo. I have been like a language junkie...seeking out anyone and anything who can feed my addiction.

I started with the usual Kedu (Hell0), Dalu/Imeela (thankyou), Biko (Please). Soon though that wasn't enough. My favourite phrase for a while was I bola chi just because I liked the way it rolled off the tongue and no matter it wasn't morning! Of course, it would never do without developing the African accent not easy in the UK.

So my quest continued, I bought CD's, Dictionary and studied short courses, eavesdropped into conversations and read every poster I could. The more I learnt the more I wanted to learn. Eventually reading and writing better than being able to speak and this is where I am now..having reached a plateau my personal goal is to be able to speak reasonably well and be understood before I leave Nigeria! Then at least I will be able to say that I am bilingual and can speak Igbo with pride....but more importantly I will have done my little bit to hold onto more than a language but a culture passed down from father to son; mother to daughter. May be one day the good Lord will allow me to continue in the same tradition...and when someone says 'I na asu Igbo?' I will be able to reply with pride 'Ana m asu Igbo!'

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