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Monday, September 14, 2015

The naijapersonality and language issues. Learning languages can be very difficult and stressful. It involves various stages and can often be discouraging. I have had to learn two languages in one year: Italian, because I have to study with it; and also German, for a future need. I have had the stress of studying some other languages during my school days, languages like Yoruba, french, Latin, ancient Greek and Hebrew. They say, it is good to learn languages as they give you a new soul, introduce you to new cultures and also give you a greater picture of reality. Being good at one language also facilitates your language-learning ability, and determines how fast or good you learn another, especially when they are related. My Latin, English and french roots have to a great extent serviced my Italian language studies. I never knew that these languages I learned many years ago, thinking maybe that I had forgotten them were still somewhere in me latent and waiting to be of use to me. To learn a new language, we need some basic skills which include, taking time to familiarize ourselves with the grammar, building our vocabulary base with the use of a thesaurus or a dictionary and then continuous reading. But over and above all these, to really make the language our own, we must use it, for one of the laws of growth is use. The lack of use renders a thing moribund. The courage to begin practicing what you learn is very important, even if you make mistakes. As you correct your mistakes, you learn. As the Italians say, making mistakes, we learn (sbagliando, si impara). It is always better to learn a language in the midst the people who speak the language, i.e. the native speakers. Taking a month or two to live among them, interact with them, make your mistakes and do your corrections, could be a welcome idea. This is my experience. Language defines and identifies a people. As such, it can be a thing of great pride. To learn a language also is very important, but who wants to learn a new language that has no economic or social value. Yes, people may want to learn a new language for academic purposes, but only if they also translate into financial or economic purposes at the end. Lately I met a young girl from Switzerland, who spent three month in a native village in Nigeria where Igbo language is spoken, but can hardly say a single word in Igbo language after these three months. I am quick to say that this would be unthinkable for a Nigerian, as just in few weeks he/she would have assimilated into the life and language of the people. The Nigerian is intelligent, freely associates and is welcoming. The young lady may have asked herself what value learning the Igbo language will serve for her, as most of my colleges in Italy who refused to learn the Italian language always asked. It could also be seen as a sort of pride in her own language, which possibly she sees as superior, but Wittgenstein held that there is no one language superior to the others. I remember growing up in Lagos and how I was forced to learn the Yoruba language just because the woman we normally buy household needs from refused to accept she understands English, the lingua franca in Nigeria. And since I needed her services, I had to learn her language to communicate effectively with her. In those days, as a kid, I thought she was foolish, but today, I envy her pride for her language. However, it is painful how most Nigerians lack this pride for their native languages and are gradually losing their languages. And this may also be tied to economic purposes. Nigeria is a multicultural society, with people from more than 250 languages and diverse cultures living together. As such, to communicate effectively and do business, Nigerians need the English language or the pidgin English. Many families also live outside their native communities, and in the cities where they train their children. It is a pity how often the parents fail to transfer their languages and identity to these children of theirs. I was proud to see a man in Switzerland whose children speak and understand their native Nigerian language (Igbo). This is one in many and I think, this is the true naijapersonality. Nigeria's riches in resources and cultures is envied world over. Our clothes and fashion stand out wherever they are displays to the amazement of the world. Our languages must be preserved and promoted to. They are not up for sale. Teaching our languages in schools is something laudable. Parents must also must it a duty to speak these native language to their children in the homes. Civilization is bettering what we have and not selling off our heritage. It is putting what we have into greater use and not allowing them die away. And I think it is time our thinkers begin to think in our native language. For example, doing philosophy in Igbo language would not mean illiteracy, nor would it undermine the discipline. Doing the original thinking in the origin native language with the words and ideas of our people would be great and would promote our language. African economy, I believe will grow, and a time will come when people will have to learn our languages because they need to do business with us.