Letter To A Nigerian


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Dear that Nigerian,

I am pained. I hope this letter meets you well and in sound mind. I went mute during our last discussion. Therefore, I write this in reply.

This is between us, but I understand there are prying eyes. For their sake, let me give an introduction.

I meet that Nigerian (Yoruba) that feels so comfortable that he does not speak his mother tongue in public, thinks nothing of it, and would not consciously teach his children.

When I tell him what he thinks will happen to the language in decades, he shakes in head as though in pity and with an assurance that betrays his gesture says,

“It will go extinct. It will disappear.”

(This letter is to him and those of his kind.)

I should tell you it is almost impossible for a language to go totally extinct.  The ‘disappearance’ of Yoruba is more of a mental than a physical thing.

And with you, it has disappeared.

You are the Nigerian who still considers himself inferior, does not embrace his identity and bears so carelessly the shame of colonialism.

It is sad not only your language is gone. You are, too.

I think you, like others merely massage what is left of your sense of identity and pride by speaking the language when there is no one to impress, when you can only win the bargain with the market woman by speaking a language she understands; and hoping that your wards may get to speak the language somehow or you could speak little to them.

You need to understand the basics of language and its acquisition.

The concepts of Language.

I am concerned it does not appear you know literacy isn’t synonymous with the use of  English.

Literacy is the ability to read and write, irrespective of what language one can.

My Grandmother speaks Yoruba, but cannot read or write in the language.

That is what illiteracy is, being unable to read and write. You swear by Obatala that all you want for your children at the primary level is literacy. And you will speak of your achievement that your kid can recite the English alphabet- the same child that cannot correctly pronounce his Yoruba name.

This illiteracy, with all the resources close to home that you could get, if you ask me, is one to be ashamed of.

English is just another language. Just as Yoruba is learned and spoken amongst illiterates, an English man who speaks in English might be unable to read or write it.

Oh yes, he speaks English because he is English. He doesn’t have to be a god, thus superior to you, to speak his mother tongue.

And you, you speak what because you’re what?

I do not see that people who speak only English do better at Lexis or have a wider vocabulary.

Speaking, writing in good English, Nigerian or whatever, would mean something close to having an ‘A’ in Physics.

You read and study and practice.

You, you do not even speak your mother tongue well! Talk less of writing or reading in it. And you see that as less of a ‘failure’ than being unable to speak good English?

Dear Nigerian, you need a lot of re-orientation.

Those excuses you gave, ‘H-factor’ and all, could we place them side-by-side with facts, so you see how they fall short?

You think it’s an inferior language. Yes, something you would not admit.

You know what I think?

I think a balance should be struck between what is given and what is owned.

And I really feel people should define what defines them, and embrace their definitions.

You know I have so little against English or any other foreign language, I just have a problem with a bad home with a host that’s kissing up to the guest

And that’s what I think you do with English.

You, who have not laid your bed nor built your home, go about calling strangers in and letting them have a say.

It is not your prophecy of doom I fear, it is you, lousy host.

And I pity your unknowing guest- the foreign language.

And by the way, may I give a piece of advice, in my generosity?  It’s not much advantage to speak one language.

I think English should just be the second language, the one we learn to get by.  And if you, Nigerian, look around at all, at people of other nationalities, it would not take long to see how odd you are, however much you pride in that oddity.

Oh, please speak English. And speak it well. You should be good at the things you have to do. Just know it is ‘a thing’ not ‘the thing’.

And that you look so funny wearing such imported unfitting dress, -and it’s all you have- when you have not sewn the ones we sell at home.

Abo oro la n so fun omo’luabi, bo ba denu e, a d’odidi.

(A word is enough for the wise)

I pray you good wishes.

 

Yours,

Asake Ade.

 

About the Writer: Joy AsepeOluwa Adegbite is a teenage Christian girl. Yoruba lover. Deep thinker. Food loyalist. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember. She was one of the top finalists of the 2013 National Essay Competition, consequent to which she toured top UK universities with other winners.

She blogs at penningbold.wordpress.com, sharing thoughts she claims will not be calm until they are let out.

 

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Cheers!

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