Will the Igbo language survive the next generation?

November 9, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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John Chizoba Vincent



Will the Igbo language still be relevant in the next generation? Will it survive as a language in the next 50 years to come? Will people still speak this language or will they have a modernised one?



The gradual fading away of the Igbo language is disheartening. Yes, I must confess that sometimes I become confused myself. I become frustrated at the level at which our cultures and languages are gradually fading into the abyss of darkness and many of us don’t even care for it, our greed to gather moisture of wealth and kill ourselves is what rules us daily. This is only what we inherit from nature. It is us, the only thing we are identified with then, why are we allowing it to go into extinction? Why are we allowing it to leave us in such a manner? It is our language and culture and there is no way we should allow it to go into extinction like that.


The problem we have is that we fail to communicate in our mother tongue to our children as parents and if we fail in this aspect, then this language will soon die before the next generation comes in because language and culture is meant to be passed from one generation to another in order to remain relevant among the people. We don’t educate our children or young ones on the importance of the language, we don’t, we prefer foreign languages to ours and this is killing us. Could it be that the only extinction of humanity and their languages will lead to the recovery of the Earth’s environment?


I think our languages should be made compulsory in exams instead of the English language. I think these languages – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa – should be made compulsory in schools so that every child born in Nigeria should be educated in his/her mother tongue. I don’t see any reason why it should be a vernacular when a child speaks in Igbo, Yoruba, or Hausa language in class. I don’t see why such a child should be punished for that whereas it is not so in countries like India, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia. They all use their native languages in the classroom to teach the younger generations. Our cultures and languages should also be taught in these schools upto University level.


Our histories should also be taught. The only history which is being taught in our schools is that of Biafra and the Nigerian civil war; the cause and its damages on the land reforming or redressing already healed wounds. Apart from the civil war and the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates and the coming of the Europeans into Nigeria in 1914, nothing else has been taught in our schools. We are just clueless people dancing to the rhythm of the Western beats. No school is teaching us about Nigeria before 1914, no school is teaching us the life of our forefathers in the stone age, how they were surviving before the Europeans came in. We no longer see the people in us, our ancestral souls baking red and black ink! Our ancestral hands embrace dryness and emptiness of the world we are made of. Africanism gone, Nigerianism lost in the jungle of greed and selfishness, Igboism, a thing to retrieve from the western world.


The future of this nation is dancing in the dark listening to music of loss. Nothing is working, everyone seems to be wedding the culture of the white. Recently, Halloween was celebrated by Nigerians, both the Igbo, the Yoruba and the Hausa people celebrated it in one way or another but never in history has our own been celebrated as much. We now prefer to be known by these foreign cultures and languages after these men who colonized us have left the shores of our land. We no longer see the beauty of our names, our ancestral clothes. Our lawyers still wear their wigs, our teachers still dress just like them, our ancestral attire lost to the white man’s own. I think we should look into this. It is in our hands. The ministry of education and communication, and ministry of culture and tourism should look into this. This is our own, it is our language and should not be allowed to go into extinction by any means and forms.


Parents should learn how to educate or teach their children how to speak these languages. Hence, our ability to control ourselves from the twisted hands of colonialism is very key because this has tortured us in such a way that we forget the diversity of our cultures and roots, furthering the dexterity of our immediate family in breeding us. Family is the smallest unit of society in which a child learns his/her first word, he or she follows what he or she sees the parents or siblings doing. He/she learns to conquer self and his or her environments. For the sustainability of these languages, the family has a major role to play as the mother factor to enforce this into society, through which a child knows his or her environment. Let’s stop burning down the bridges that would sustain us tomorrow.


I happened to be at a wedding one Saturday, the coaster we were in were all Londoners, the women in the bus just flew in from London to Nigeria to attend a wedding party. They were of Igbo origin according to their names but they were born and bred in London. They were all speaking the white man’s tongue. I spoke to one of them, in Igbo to her, and she didn’t understand what I was saying. She was confused, later telling me she didn’t have the opportunity to learn the language because her mother and father never spoke it to them in the house. The bitter thing there was that she was fascinated with the language and asked me to teach her but I said there was no way she could learn the language within the minutes we were on the bus. I am not against civilization, no, I am of the opinion that our own blood should not be mixed with fire and water. We should not throw our own languages away to embrace a foreign language.


I am not sure what would happen to the Igbo language particularly in the next 50 years. I am not sure if it will survive or still be relevant looking at how things are going now. Our schools have decided to make English compulsory where as our own mother tongue is optional. Students can now decide to write the Igbo language in their WAEC or not, and can decide not to attend any Igbo language lectures in class. I can’t see this happening in China, India, Pakistan or other places. Why are we like this? We are we being enslaved spiritually and physically? We are being enslaved mentally and emotionally by those things that our colonial masters left behind for us. Will the Igbo language be relevant for the next generation?





John Chizoba Vincent

John Chizoba Vincent is a cinematographer, filmmaker, music video director, poet and a writer. A graduate of mass communication, he believes in life and the substances that life is made of. He has three books published to his credit which includes Hard Times, Good Mama, Letter from Home. For boys of tomorrow is his first offering to poetry. He lives in Lagos.

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