Interest In Local Languages Drops Near Zero On Increased Globalisation | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Interest In Local Languages Drops Near Zero On Increased Globalisation

Posted: Mar 16, 2016 at 1:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Oyeniran Apata, Lagos

Interest in Nigerian languages has dropped to near zero, according to statistics recently released by the Joint Matriculation and Admission Board (JAMB), organisers of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

The JAMB data showed that, on the average, only 0.1% of students’ choice of course and subject at the 2016 UTME was for local languages, indicating that Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, and Yoruba are fast becoming extinct as subjects of study in schools.

Observers say the development does not bode well for the nation’s rich culture, adding that a situation where parents take pride in their children speaking ‘queens’ English as against one of the country’s local languages as a mark of affluence and pride to the family is worrisome. They also adduced that the development is a fallout of increased globalisation, which is fuelled by the content children are exposed to early in life.

Today, indigenous languages are facing the greatest threat as attention for the development of the nation does not put into consideration the need to sustain the study of local languages. Instead foreign culture is now the crave of many homes with language being the purveyor of culture.

Independent gathered that children of school age are cautioned in schools or even punished for speaking in their mother tongues just as their counterparts that are still learning to pick words are consciously fed with languages that are alien to their parents.

It is estimated that of about 6,000 to 7,000 languages spoken around the world, Nigeria accounted for over 521 languages with 9 already extinct. Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Edo, Fulfulde, and Kanuri, among others, are currently disappearing at an accelerated rate due to the processes of globalization and neocolonialism, where the economically powerful languages dominate other languages.

Inadvertently, at the home front, parents and guardians place a wedge by discouraging the young ones in their quests for further studies to embrace programmes considered lucrative at the universities and colleges of education where the languages are not taught talk less of engaging teachers in that field of study.

Statistics of choices of courses in institutions released by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for the 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) revealed the low interest of candidates in the study of local languages.

A random sampling of candidates’ choice of three universities in the South West zone – University of Lagos (UNILAG), University of Ibadan (UI), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) – showed apathy to the study of Yoruba language, principally spoken in the zone.

Also, choice of candidates in the study of Hausa language in Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Sule Lamido University, University of Maiduguri, Federal University, Gusau, and Usman Danfodio University was also examined.

UNN recorded 92 candidates with interest in the study of linguistics with Igbo and five for Anambra State University, representing 0.14 and 0.13 percent, respectively.

However, UNIBEN occupying the second place as the most sought after university in 2016 and 8th best university in Nigeria recorded only four candidates with interest to study linguistics with interest in Edo language, while 36 enrolled to study French language at the institution.

UNILAG recorded a total of 62,472 prospective candidates for various courses recorded, 25 for the study of the Yoruba language, representing a poor 0.04 percent.

The statistics showed a better outing for the study of Hausa language as many of the sampled institutions recorded more candidates numbering over 100 in some institutions. In Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, of the 15, 191 that wrote the UTME examination, 377 candidates registered to study Hausa language. This represents about 3 percent of the total figure for the university.

Reacting to the development, Semiu Abati, a lecturer at the Federal College of Education (FCE), Abeokuta, attributed the challenge to parental problems where children are not encouraged and sometimes forbidden from communicating in the mother tongue.

“We cannot blame the school for the likelihood of a possible extinction of the Yoruba language. It is what is baked at the home front that is inherited by the schools to manage and remoulded into shape,” he said, adding that “it is not only the Yoruba language but the culture and all other things associated with the race risk extinction. Our moral values have gone into the winds. We risk a challenge of not getting young ones to speak the language in about 50 years.”

He blamed government for contributing to the problem of phobia students now have for the study of local languages, saying that the employment of less qualified people to teach the subject had also contributed to the problem.

“In the South West, foreign culture and tradition have eroded all that is passed down from the older generation. Religion has eaten so deep that our culture is now tagged fetish and abandoned from generation to generation.

“Any nation or group of people that are not proud of their language, culture and heritage risk the danger of extinction sooner than envisaged. It is disheartening to listen to parents that have made English language the official language of communication at the home front. Even the English language forced on the children is not even well spoken and delivered,” Abati added.

On the influx of qualified holders of the National Certificate of Education in Yoruba language into programme presentations on radio and television because of the lure of money, he stated that if barristers at law could also venture into legislative functions and politics, nothing should limit a brilliant teacher to venture into other areas where he can put talent to use.

Reacting to the lackluster attitude of young Nigerians to the study of Yoruba language, Mr. Adedeji Tarnner, president of a non-governmental organisation, Yoruba Language and Ethnic Initiative (YLEI), explained that the problems begin from the home front where parents take pride is barring their children from communicating in the local language.

“The erroneous belief is that if you don’t communicate in English language you don’t belong. This explains why we are subservient to foreigners even on our own soil. No nation can develop by taking pride in other people’s language. Look at China, India, Japan, among others, they have attained developed status because they kept to their languages as language of instruction. Economically they are buoyant,” he pointed out.

Mr. Kalu Onuma, Administrative Secretary, Ndigbo Lagos, using the Russian example which drills a fresh student in Russian as he goes to study there, said the first five years of young Nigerian pupils should be a period for thorough drilling in a Nigerian language. He explained that the alarm of possible extinction was not new, saying that Ndigbo have been working around the issue, saying that language as an embodiment of the culture of the people, when it is lost, the communicative ability is also completely lost in the process.

He called for a nationwide promotion of local languages at the home front using all forms of creative objects and ideas like production of cartoons and movies for children.

He lamented that Nigeria as a borrowing and importing nation that exports virtually everything we need cannot make local languages interesting to other nations and submitted that local languages cannot go into extinction in view of globalisation.

Emphasising the need for mother tongue, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in a recent report said that 40 percent of the children of school age do not access education in the languages they understand.