The need to speak and promote our indigenous languages has further been stressed. This was the main thrust of discussions on NTA News 24, Abuja, when the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, and Prof. (Mrs.) A. U. Okwudishu of the Univeristy of Abuja, appeared on the programme, Nigeria Today on March 14, 2011.
Reacting to questions on the challenges of speaking the Mother Tongue in Nigeria, Dr. Ayakoroma stated that parents need to encourage children to speak the Mother Tongue. He observed that speaking English always at home to children, “is not very good for our development,” adding that “any thing we say in the Mother Tongue and translates, loses its originality.”
He further said the collective use of the Mother Tongue “will bring our youths together, it brings people together and there will be mutual understanding,” he added.
The NICO boss recalled that in 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), declared February 21st as the International Mother Tongue Day; but unfortunately, the day does not attract the attention given to other World Days, like the World Health Day, World Environment Day, International Women Day, among others.
The Executive Secretary said Nigerians should show interest in their Mother Tongue and shun the colonial influence of speaking English Language always, otherwise the Indigenous Languages would be in danger of extinction. He cited the case of Igbani Language once spoken at the Opobo and Bonny areas of Rivers State,which is now going extinct.
In reaction to what NICO has done to salvage the situation, Ayakoroma said, the Institute has the Long Vacation Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme in place, to give children a veritable platform to learn and be proficient in the speaking of an indigenous language. He further stated that the Indigenous Language Programme is also targetted at expatriates and those who are into inter-tribal marriages for spouses to learn each other’s language.
He therefore advised parents to take advantage of the Nigerian Indigenous Language Programmes of NICO, as it is contrary to the Proudly Nigerian Initiative, if one does not speak one’s Mother Tongue or any of the indigenous languages. He asked rhetorically, “How can someone who cannot speak his Mother Tongue or any of the indigenous languages be proudly referred to as a ‘Nigerian’?”
In her contribution, Mrs. A. U. Okwudishu, a Professor of Language Education, stated that the Mother Tongue helps cognitive development as it is the language of specialisation. She however said, refusal to use the Mother Tongue destroys the child’s cognitive development and therefore strongly advised parents to transmit their Mother Tongue to their children.
The Language Professor said various policy instruments like the National Policy on Education and the Cultural Policy for Nigeria encourage learning and speaking of indigenous languages at an early age, but the policy frameworks to facilitate the learning of the languages are not really in place.
Professor Okwudishu observed that it takes sometime to develop the orthography of any given language, adding that the National Policy on Education, for now, only encourages the learning of indigenous languages in the first three years in primary and nursery schools, after which the children are taught in English Language.
On possible extinction of the indigenous languages, Prof Okwudisu said they are working in collaboration with UNESCO to develop the languages. She, however, warned that failure to encourage the speaking of the Mother Tongue would lead to the extinction of most indigenous languages in the next 50 years as predicted by language experts.
The programme was anchored by Segun Ojerinde of the NTA, Abuja.