Great Benin Bronze


Native Language

It really is a saddening but growing lifestyle that some people have embraced thinking, that it is a pride to announce that their offspring canNOT or do NOT speak their native language. 
One may not be proficient in his native language, let alone their dialect, but I still agree that it is important that parents raise their offspring to have at the very least an understanding of their own language. Such goof-ups result in parents making eye contacts/signals to their children in the presence of visitors only for such kids to respond, by asking if their parents have something in their eyes.

Some of us may not have had the opportunity to master the reading and writing of our native languages, because they weren't offered or were discontinued in our school curriculum, but most people I know that I schooled with all learned at the very least how to speak our native languages from our parents.

Presently, native languages are being included in the school curriculum beginning at elementary level, enabling today's children to have a better master of the native tongues of Nigeria in addition to the Queen's language which is the lingual franca of Nigeria, and I find this very commendable.

It's embarrassing when my 7 year old niece can read even the Yoruba language better than I can, and knows simple words like window, etc, which I simply assumed to be 'findow', because I probably heard it on the street somewhere when I was younger. I cringed and reflected on how much of my language I truly can teach my own offspring, considering I'm only good at speaking it, and get away with writing at times, by the mere fact that Nigerian languages share the use of the same alphabets as the English language.

For those who think or make the excuse that it would be confusing for their kids to learn an additional language, I think that's simply BULL. Growing up we had the OPTION of learning and speaking up to 3 languages, which consisted of our native languages, spoken in our homes, the Queen's English which we were taught both at home and in school, and a foreign language, usually French, which we were taught in school. Some people who attended schools where a native language was an option, sometimes chose that over French.

The bottom line is NONE of us grew up confused, most of us mastered, the Queen's English because it is the lingual Franca, and at the very least learned to understand and speak the other 2 languages, even if we weren't proficient at reading or writing them. Some of us even picked up the pidgin language as well as a little of other languages, be it Ibo, Yoruba or Hausa from our neighbours and friends. I don't think that our ability to understand up to 6 or 7 languages has confused us, even though we may not be proficient at reading or writing all the languages.

Those of us who migrated to the U.S. have even learned to pick up Spanish, as a 4th (or 7 or 8th) language, despite the fact that we may not necessarily be proficient in it, so what basis is there for the EXCUSE that learning to speak your native language will be confusing.

I think it's nothing but 'colo' if a parent thinks it's HIP or they're closer to being accepted in the Western world, by not teaching their children their native tongues. After all, most of us in the Diaspora were raised in Nigeria, mastered the Queen's English while growing up and schooling in NIGERIA, and till today read, write and speak better English than most of our Caucasian counterparts who were schooled only in English. Moreover, despite the fact that some Nigerians have deeper accents and may SOUND different, it does not detract from the fact that we do speak better grammatically than some of our American or other foreign counterparts. Everyone has an accent, regardless, because any intonation different and distinct to what one is used to hearing is what determines an accent foreign to them.

I too have some relatives whose children were raised to speak English only, although most understand their native language, and although I respect the choices of their parents and whatever their reasoning may be, I still think it's a disservice to their offspring, especially when their cousins are speaking in the native language and they cannot communicate with them, or fully understand what the conversation is about.

Generally, I also don't believe it's excusable regardless of where the children were raised, in or out of Nigeria, because there are kids who were raised in the Diaspora, some of whom have never been to Nigeria, who not only understand, but also speak their native language, and embrace their customs and cultures, because their parents took the time to make the effort to teach them.

Children raised in Nigeria who cannot speak the Nigerian language have been shortchanged, by their parents. While it may be the school's desire or responsibility to make sure students master the lingual franca, it is not their responsibility to teach a child to master his/her native language except they offer it on their curriculum and the child has chosen to value that opportunity.

Most people that grew up in Lagos may have missed the opportunity to learn their dialect, but at the same time gained from the multicultural environment because it provides the opportunity to learn several other languages in addition to ones native language as opposed to having grown up in ones native hometown.

I've learned more of my native language in the Diaspora than I mastered during my youth in Nigeria, but the language foundation that was previously laid for me, plus my eagerness to learn, helped me learn faster. I am not ashamed to ask what a word means, because I'll rather be enlightened, than ignorant, faking knowledge. I'm not interested in pretending to be 'only English speaking' either, because I delight in the richness of my culture, my language and the uniqueness I'm afforded at being a Nigerian and an African.


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