Our languages are dying , these are the reasons why you and I are the killers.

This piece is strictly about the extinction of our language, culture and the roles we play in aiding it using Yoruba as a case study for obvious reasons. 

Growing up was a tad difficult for me, I had this trait of Africans who don’t adore their culture and traditions. However, everyday of my life, I wake up to the reality – the environment my parents created. This environment is what is called YORUBANISM ( if there’s any word like that) . I was only free to do everything ’western’ in the school; never at home. School and home were two different environments for me, I spoke Yoruba at home, acted and related to everyone as a Yoruba boy. At school, I do everything my teachers wanted from speaking English even with the disparity between the two languages. When speaking Yoruba, there are some words used in sentences that signifies that you’re speaking to someone older which isn’t available in English language. It took me some time to balance it but those were interesting moments of life. I learnt all the virtues of an OMOLUABI (a well-behaved child) from my parents and siblings before me. 

I understand a lot of people like me who have been alive for more than 3 decades or almost, grew up like me learning two languages without any form of regrets. However, what we have today is parents who don’t want their kids to speak any language other than English. They specifically warn neighbors, family-friends and relatives not to speak indigenous languages the kids. Scientists have proven that kids have the ability to learn two ore languages at the same time. This can have two kinds of effects on kids; it’s either they don’t know how to speak their local dialect or makes them feel inferior to those who can speak good English and also their mother tongue fluently. This can have in one way the other lead to low-self esteem in kids. 

Another way we are indirectly killing our languages is by trying to give an English name to everything indigenous in Nigeria. I feel very ashamed that Nigerians try to give an english word or phrase for Akara ( by calling it ‘bean cake’), this is just one out of many others. If we are not being careful, our great-grand kids will never meet any indigenous name for some popular meals and commodities. One word to another, this is how we kill our respective languages. 

Everyone who has a social media account in Nigeria will also notice a trend in spelling of names. Some people also spell their names in such a way it looks like an English name. In 2017, I wanted to connect with a friend who had once added me on Facebook, I had lost his phone number but I wanted him on a job with could have fetched him some cool money. I searched with his real and full names and I couldn’t find him, I had to engage another person for the job. Met him at an even few months later and I asked him of he had left social media and he told me no. He however, changed his name from Remilekun Adeola to REHMYLEHKUN HARDEYORLA. This in my opinion is 21st century slavery. 

Those who sat down to include our indigenous languages as a must-write examination/subject for school leavers were right and proactive but what we have now as the reality are students passing Yoruba Language in WAEC without knowing the vowels in Yoruba. Majority see it as a waste of time. There has to be a deliberate effort to “catch them young” and make them fall in love with their mother tongue as preteens and teenagers. 

One interesting way we can help stop our language from extinction is to patronize local content in the entertainment sphere and make sure the actors in the sector are supported whenever they produce songs, movies, documentaries etc that promotes our culture. Another way to “catch them young” is through kids’ content because majority of kids who are privileged to watch TV learn how to speak english by watching interesting kid’s content like cartoons and animated movies. People should also be encouraged to wear their local attires in public and official gatherings. I think we should also ensure that we don’t leave the Private sector and public service behind by mandating staff of institutions and firms to wear our native attires more than foreign ones weekly and not otherwise. No one has the monopoly on ideas on how to solve the issue, but we can all contribute to solving this issue.

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