Nigerian Languages that are going extinct
How can we preserve these beautiful languages?
Have you wondered how many languages are spoken in Nigeria? There are more than 500 languages in Nigeria. But sadly, a good number of them are extinct or at risk of dying out. A language usually dies when the native speakers replace that language with one they consider superior. In Nigeria, the superior language is the English language. English is the lingua franca of Nigeria, and it is spoken in all 36 states of the country.
Why do languages die?
When people stop using a language or pass it up in favour of another one, then that language faces the risk of going extinct. This usually happens when people begin to see some languages or cultures as being superior to others.
Here are a few reasons why languages go extinct.
The English language in Nigeria is a legacy left behind by years of colonization. It is the Lingua Franca – the official language – of Nigeria. Unfortunately, English has become the measure of intelligence. People who aren’t fluent in English are sometimes considered unintelligent.
English is the language of instruction in Nigerian schools, and school children are encouraged to shun their local languages and speak only English.
2. Inferiority Complex
A child’s first brush with language is typically always at home. The first language teachers are parents and guardians, who have the liberty to decide what language the child speaks. In the past, vernacular was spoken at home and the child learned English as a second language when they started school.
Sadly, more and more parents are electing to speak English to their children instead of their local languages. There are many reasons for this. Some parents feel that learning their native language could prevent their child from getting a good grasp of the English language. Others simply don’t think that their culture is worth passing on to the child.
3. Formal Education
As mentioned before, the language of instruction in Nigerian schools is English. French is also taught in schools, so speaking passable French is icing on the cake. Mandarin is gaining global recognition as one of the important languages worth knowing, and scores of Nigerians have already enrolled for classes.
Local languages rarely get this same kind of respect. The people who even speak their native languages are mostly unable to read and write these languages.
How many languages are spoken in Nigeria? And are they going extinct?
A few Nigerian languages are going extinct. These languages might not be the big ones, but that doesn’t protect the big languages from suffering the same fate some years from now. It starts slowly, and before long, many languages would have been wiped off.
Extinct and endangered languages in Nigeria
There are about 27 Nigerian Languages that are endangered and considered extinct or almost extinct. This is a startling amount of languages. Some of these languages are; Akum, Bade, Bakpina, Defaka, Duguza, Dulbu, Fyem, Geji, Gera, Gura, Ilue, Gurdu, Gyem, Hya, Jilba, Kiong, Kona, Kudu, Luri, Mvamp, etc.
The States where the languages are spoken are:
Akum- Taraba state
Bade- Yobe state
Bakpinka- Cross River state
Duguza- Northeast of Jos
Dulbu- Bauchi state
Fyem- Plateau state
Geji cluster- Bauchi state
Gera- Bauchi(speakers are swiftly shifting to Hausa)
Gura- Benue state
Ilue- Lower Cross River state
These are a lot of dead or dying languages. Right now, there are barely any native speakers around, and so the languages will keep disappearing until no one can speak or understand them at all. It gets even sadder that there doesn’t appear to be any texts recorded in these languages, which would have at least given us hope that the languages could come alive again in the future.
How to save our languages from going extinct
The best way to save our dying languages is to speak, read and write these languages, of course. Speaking these languages with a sense of pride could lead to a revival.
There are a few tips for bringing back our language:
1. Teach children their native languages
The children should learn their language first no matter where they are born. When parents speak their mother tongue to the kids, the kids get to learn it first-hand from experts. If possible, parents could also teach them to read and write these local languages. English and French should be taught in schools as second and third languages.
2. Communicate in Nigerian languages
How many languages are spoken in Nigeria is besides the point. The best way to keep a language alive is to make sure there are as many speakers as possible. The best way to get many speakers is to speak the language to everyone around you. Once it becomes a habit, there’s hope that the language can flicker back to life.
3. Incorporate local languages in entertainment media
Thankfully, the Nigerian entertainment scene is witnessing a revival when it comes to using local languages in movies and songs. Nollywood, Nigeria’s premier film industry, is doing a lot to promote moviemaking in local languages, and that’s why there’s a boom in the Igbo and the Yoruba branches of Nollywood.
4. Give your children native names
Giving children native names promotes and encourages the use of Nigerian languages. Unique names are conversation starters. People who wonder about these beautiful native names can ask for the meaning, the associated etymology, and of course, the circumstances that inspired the name.
Also, children with non-English names will grow a sense of pride in their cultural heritage, especially if they had previously felt ashamed of their native names.