Hello guys. It’s been a while. Everywhere looks dusty. Just dust the windows and grab a seat. Okay. Here we go. What are we talking about today? No. That sounds like I don’t know why I called you guys; like one of my lecturers who enters the class with nothing but his phone and instead of teaching us West African History goes on to tell us his own history. School sucks, believe me!
Two months ago, a brother messaged me on WhatsApp and asked why I don’t write in French language since I (according to him) know the language very well. I gave me that look; sent him that emoji that looks up as if to say, ‘Really, that just came out of your mouth?) Two blue ticks and the guy replied. ‘At least, write about it.)
Okay. Dear Tolu, this is me doing what you want.
Until months ago, I could not compose a simple sentence in French Never mind that I learnt French for three years in secondary school. Those days. Crazy days. I never did an assignment myself. I would copy from my friends and we all would get zero together. And then we would blame it on French. On the language. On our teachers. On France, the country. And whoever invented the French language. We hated French. Why? Very simple. We never even knew what French was. It’s the way some atheists hate God because they don’t even know who He is. There is no way you will know God and hate him. Same with French.
April came and I decided to take a 4 – weeks Intensive Beginner’s Course in the French language. It was intentional. But I was scared. My fear was not that I would not know French. My fear was that I would not know it enough. That I would screw up. That I would fail all those people who chat me up like ‘Hey’
THEY: How’s the Easter going?
THEY: Come on! How’s home? Sure you’ve eaten chicken today.
ME: Home is good, I believe. I’m in school. No chicken here. (I drop a smiling smiley even though I’m frowning.)
THEY: (surprised emoji) Why Mike? You have joined bad gang! Why won’t you spend Easter at home?
ME: Yes, I have joined bad gang and you are the ring leader! And because I didn’t even remember it was Easter until two days to Easter. I am learning French.
THEY: Whao! That’s cool. I want to learn French too. You’ll teach me, right?
People can be annoying, believe me!
So it is the fear of disappointing all these people that got me scared. But trust me! I am the son of my father so I take up the French challenge and I decide to learn the language. It wasn’t easy but I emerged victorious. Fourth best in my class. Why not first? Simple. Because I don’t take life hard. I don’t sit in front. I skip some classes. I don’t do some assignments. I go to some classes late. I speak English sometimes instead of French. And because I am curious, I try things out. And I fail sometimes. Most times.
So I emerged fourth. With a 77% or so, can’t remember.
Anyways I learnt French and it was cool. French is a romantic language. The way words are pronounced, the way they are written, the accents, everything is cool. If French were to be a lady in a fitted gown and heels, I’d hug her and fall in love with her. Perhaps I’ll marry a French lady. Perhaps.
But really, did I learn French for its romanticness and all? Did my dad pay the cash he paid for the tuition and said, ‘Okay, Mike. We want you to go learn French for four weeks and come back with romantic tales of the language.’? Of course not!
There are many reasons why people learn languages. One because they love the Language or the people. The other and commonest of all reasons is because they need the language to get by. Note the word need there.
(If you are observant, you will know by now that we are now going logical. This is me answering a question asked by a girlfriend of mine recently on why we have enthroned English and debased our language.)
Someone once asked me, why not Igbo? Why French? Of course I would love to learn Igbo. There are three Nigerian languages I would love to learn and know deeply. One is my own language, Yoruba. I still don’t believe I know this language. I’m depending on my dad to teach me. The second is Fulfuide. Fulfuide is the language spoken by the Fulani people. (Yeah! Get that today. They don’t speak the common Hausa tongue). The third is Igbo. Why do I want to learn these languages? Simple! Because I love them and I love the people and because I am a storyteller and one of the ways you can know the story of a people is by speaking their language. Now another question. Why don’t I put some cash into this? Why not go for a 4week intensive course in Fulfuide? Why go for French? There are many reasons. One: where are the training centres? Okay. Let’s assume they exist. Why would I pay some cash to learn Fulfuide when I can pay the same amount to learn French? What will I even tell my parents is wrong with me?
I will pay to learn French and not Fulfuide because there are more benefits in learning French than in learning Fulfuide. At least that’s my belief. See, human beings are animals with brain. We can think. It’s the way if you are given the option of spending your vacation either in France or in the Fulani land, where would you choose? Of course you’d pick France! Why France! France is more beautiful. France is a land of opportunities. France is next to only England in Europe. France is a historical country. There’s the Eiffel tower. There’s Notre Dame. There’s the Palace of Versailles. There’s all of that. Of course Fulani land will be fun too but just not as fun as France.
Another question. But does that not show that we are not promoting our own? Our culture? Our country? This thing is not about promoting our country or anything. It is about doing what anybody with a brain will do. Go for the best! If Fulani land was better than France, more beautiful, more romantic, wearing even higher heels than fat France can ever carry, will you beg us to go there? No, you don’t have to. We wil simply go there because it is more beautiful and is a land of opportunities. You don’t tell people to do things out of pity. They should do things because they ought to, because it’s wise and reasonable to do. It’s the same way some guys will be pleading that we should buy Nigerian made products to boost our economy. Heck! I will buy Nigerian made if Nigerian made is better. I will buy China made if it is better. I won’t spend my money on trash simply because I want to make those doing it happy. If not that we have beautiful Nigerian authors, I won’t buy Nigerian books. Instead, I would admonish Nigerian authors to write books worth buying.
Let’s go back to Language.
Another annoying thing is the issue of people asking annoying whys. Why do we have to use English as our official language? Why not Yoruba? Why not Hausa? Why not even Pidgin? There are many reasons why this is not advisable and why I don’t pray it ever works out.
One. We need to understand Nigeria. Perhaps a little bit of history will help us understand this issue. I will do my best to break these things down. One is that Nigeria is not a nation. A nation is : An historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity and/or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. (English Dictionary)
To the best of my knowledge, an example of a nation now is the Yoruba people. We are a nation. We have a single language, Yoruba. Now of course there are many dialects of this language. Ijebu. Ijesa. Etc. But thing is, they are all connected. Now let us imagine there’s a very successful, technology driven,very developed country called Oduduwa country and the people there are the Yoruba people, it will be reasonable and possible to have their own language which is the Yoruba language as their official language. Not a foreign language. Why? Because they have a common language which more than 80% of them can speak and understand. Also because they are a successful country and instead of their citizens going to other countries to study, get jobs, get wealthy, set up businesses and the likes, citizens of other countries will be dying to get into Oduduwa country and will be paying huge amounts to learn the Yoruba language. Why? Because it is a land of opportunities and the language is a language of opportunities.
But my dear people, this country called Oduduwa country does not exist in Africa. It exists in the US, the UK, France, China (to an extent) and so these countries are using their own language as their official language.
So why can’t we have one of our languages as our official language?
- We are not a nation, okay? We are a group of nations, thanks to Frederick Lugard and his superiors. And due to this fact, we don’t have a common language. If we choose Yoruba, what will happen to the Igbo people? This is why we have to adopt a foreign language to be ours.
Because this is not a land of opportunities so if you decide to not learn a foreign language, you will be at a great loss when it comes to international stuffs. Your language won’t help you much in lands of opportunities like the US, the UK, China, etc. Why then can’t we just learn the language and have our own official language as Pidgin or Yoruba? Because of Number 1 reason above. And also because one of the best ways to learn a language is by making it official. Most of us learnt French in our primary and secondary schools. One of the reasons we still didn’t get it or can’t speak it is because it isn’t our official language.
Why then can’t we be learning our own languages the way we learn other foreign languages? Because our languages are not languages of opportunity. There is little or nothing to gain. The languages can’t open way for us the way other foreign languages will. And due to this, most people don’t see any sense in putting money in learning a language that is not that useful.
Can’t we just learn it for the fun of it? For the pride? For the cultural heritage? Beautiful! We can! And we should! We all should learn our languages. We should speak it to ourselves. We should teach our children. And we should learn other indigenous Nigerian languages too. Like Hausa and Fulfuide. That’s why we have stuffs like NYSC and Federal Unity Schools. The main purpose and aim was Cultural Integration. Though it seems that has been forgotten now. So we all should learn our languages but we should never forget how very very important to our exposure, survival and financial status it is to learn foreign languages, because they are languages of Opportunity.
5.But then, won’t our language go into extinction like this? If we don’t speak it, yes, it will. If we don’t write it, yes, it will. What then shall we do? Speak it! Write it! Aggressively! Angrily! Teach your children. Make sure they know it. Advocate that it should remain in our school curriculum. Advocate that it should be taught till the secondary school level just the way English is. Just don’t in anyway make your children think they are good to go once they know only their indigenous language. That’s the height of folly.
Ugggh! I’m tired already. My hands are aching. To think I wrote all this in one sitting. This is my stand on this issue of language and all. I didn’t plan to write this. I wanted to write on something else but this is what came out of me.
Let me know what you think about this topic in the Comments. Be as angry as possible. Let me know if there’s any error in all I have written so I can make corrections. That said, let’s draw the curtain. Close the door. Don’t forget to sign out. We’ll meet next week. Till then, have fun!
Quick Question: If I had written all this in Yoruba, how many of you would have read it? How many of you would have read it the way you read this English version?