This scenario is not a new thing as there are other children in the same pathetic situation as Onyiza who cannot speak and understand her mother tongue. The only language most young stars tend to be acquainted with is English because that is what they have known throughout their growing years and now it is difficult to comprehend their mother tongue not to talk of reading or writing it. Given this, it might be safe to say mother tongue in Nigeria which has over 250 native languages is varnishing. opinions of people about this growing negative trend in our society tend to corroborate this assertion.
The question of preservation of our language is one that needs treatment at the national, state and even the local government levels which should involve everybody. Bayo Akin said “language is an integral part of our history and culture. Retaining our language gives us the feeling that we have not totally lost our identity to colonialism and slave trade”. It is not any different for Vincent Chukwu who said “whenever I think of it I feel sorry for our country because when we go to countries like France, you have to learn to speak French before you can properly integrate into their society but the situation is different here. We are not saying that English is not good but we have to first preserve our own culture and heritage. We must first learn to walk with our feet before attempting to drive a car. Without our language we are like an amputated man who depends on a wheel chair to move around and the government has to really do something about this ugly situation, we should be proud to be Nigerians.”
Some are also of the view that our culture is gradually dying and surprisingly most people think it is as a result of being modern. Maryam Tanko said “take a good look at south Africa and other African countries and you will find out that they are very proud of their local language. That is one of the reasons the western countries respect them for who they are and what they stand for, but the case is different in Nigeria because we feel that if we are not like them (whites) then we are nothing yet. In the past, we had many books written in our local languages but today all that are gone as we are trying to be westernised and as it is also going a long way in promoting inferiority complex. Take a look at the Indian movie industry, we have not reached where they are yet they are not adopting English as their major language, they have used their local language to carve a niche for themselves in the movie industry, why can’t we apply the same simple methodology that they have used in moving forward.”
The kids are not also left out this dilemma. “To be sincere with you it is just our kids that I pity in this situation because they have to struggle to learn English in school, Arabic in Islamiyas and the native language at home, whereas their mates in the western country only have to learn English and they are off, but here they have to understand all these before they start learning the basics of the real learning process,” said Muhammed Abdullahi.
There is dignity and pride in every culture and tradition, our language is the only strong hold we have to our heritage, this is what Amarachi Azuka seems to be saying “we fail to understand that for every language we lose we are fast losing grip of our culture and identity and anyone who does not have an identity has nothing to live for. I wonder at most times why we are never proud of our culture and identity. I am not from the north but I was told that the emir of Kano addresses any visitor who comes to his palace inHausa and I think he is setting a good example
Children must be made to understand that our local languages are not in any way inferior to English language and that there is pride in being Nigerian in all ramifications. According to Mrs. Mairo A. Bello a civil servant, “We must put heads together to see that our mother tongue is preserved, we cannot watch as western influence and brain drain wipe out our rich cultural heritage, this is not to say that English is not okay but we have to first protect and preserve our heritage and identity especially as we are trying to rebrand the image of our country.”