It’s no secret that I love my language and I enjoy speaking it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I like and enjoy hearing other people speak in their own languages as it tells me that they are confident and proud of who they are.
I also like it when I see and hear the Turkish, the Polish and other East Europeans not to forget to mention the Indians, the Kashmiri, the Pakistani, the Chinese and so many Asians speak their native languages to their children in the playground, in the shops and so on (in the UK).
“And SOMETIMES, I get exceptionally excited when I see an African who dared speak their language to their child / children as I have observed that many Africans here in the UK do not speak their languages to their children”
This I still regard as ‘enslaving’ their language again to the European languages (English, German, Italian etc.) and this in my opinion should not be! We are now in the 21st century!)
In my last blog, I wrote that there were several issues and reasons that led to why so many Nigerian-Yoruba, born in diaspora could not speak their language. I have decided to engage with only two of these reasons and the first one is:
The parents did not speak their language to their children
Yes, that is the truth! The parents did not speak their language, Yoruba to their children or encourage them due to their perceived fear (as some have claimed) that their children learning to speak two languages simultaneously might be confused and that this might slow down the children’s learning ability and pace with their mates.
This to me made it difficult to have any reason to blame the children for their choices after all, they were children and should have been guided by the adults for if the children had been exposed to the language from birth and been in constant communication and conversation with their parents regarding their language and heritage, there might have been less issue with them struggling in relation to socially ‘belonging’.
This issue of the parents not speaking their language to their children is rather confirmed to be true by someone that was raised as a child in diaspora’, (now an adult) and a blogger by the name of Spectra.
A child’s perspective
Spectra wrote in her blog “….ironically, immigrant parents ……. are less likely to teach their children their native languages, for the purpose – or rather, the sake – of easing their assimilation into English-speaking culture”.
Spectra also emphasised the fact that “contrary to popular assumptions, not many people (the children) actively choose not to learn their native languages; this decision is often made for them at a young age, by schools and parents, perhaps pushing for assimilation into the dominant culture in which they live, or due to other factors”. This, in my opinion, rather poignantly shed the light further on the subject.
The second reason that I want to engage with is known as cultural cringe.
Cultural cringe is defined in Wikipedia as “an internalised inferiority complex that causes people in a country to dismiss their own culture as inferior to the cultures of other countries. It is closely related to the concept of colonial mentality”.
Now, looking at the meaning of the word ‘cultural cringe’, could this be happening or existing subconsciously in us (as Yoruba and Nigerians) and in our society (Nigeria) that when we even leave our country for another, this perspective is somehow imbedded in us? I don’t know, but it is worth keeping in mind especially as our society still clamour and pride itself on speaking ‘the Queen’s English’.
May I say here that this particular point, cultural cringe cannot be fully addressed here as it goes deeper into the heart of our society at large which I hope to discuss fully later on in my future blog in relation to speaking our language (Yoruba) to our children and other topics that seem to be seen and linked to this social cringe issue (I hope you would keep reading my blog).
So, what’s the point? what now?
The point here is that whatever happened in the past has happened and it is now in the past! But to ensure this does not continue to happen, is the essence of this blog as I am conscious of the fact that people are always moving all the time from one part of the world to another and where one has been is where someone else is starting.
I am hoping that this blog would help someone moving into a new culture (be it English, French, Spanish, Portuguese or another African culture or society different to theirs) to see the need for them to pause, assess and plan what they want to achieve with their lives and that of their children and that they include and prioritise speaking their language to their children so that there would be no regret in the future simply because they might have unconsciously through economic bias or otherwise, thought at a point in time that European languages are superior to their language which may result in their children being ‘left behind’ in their culture’s language arena or estranged from their culture language-wise. I really believe that our society, Nigeria needs to change its views regarding our languages.
May I also say here that I know quite a number of people that were ‘born and bred’ here in the UK, who understand our language perfectly well. Some do speak it while some might not speak it as well as they would like to, but they understand it a lot and it has been beneficial to them. All thanks to their parents who chose to speak to them in our language when young and being raised.
Below is my interview with one such, Mrs Bọ́lá Ayẹni. You can check our YouTube channel (Naijamatterz) for the rest of this interview.
Just to say here that there are so many individuals and organisations within our societies everywhere that are doing different and various things similar to what l am doing, and that is, promoting us, our languages and cultures as they see fit.
The aim of this blog is not to condemn, but to challenge our beliefs and attitudes to ourselves and our culture some of which we might have inherited from time immemorial within the culture and society which as we unpack, review and challenge these beliefs, we would come to realise that they are no longer relevant of which not speaking our language to our children is one of them.
As much as I would like to finish my writing about this language business, I cannot but bring up another issue that I came across during my research, which I would like to refer to as the ‘other side of the coin’! I believe I need to bring this up to raise our awareness to what is going on right ‘under our noses’ as I cannot conclude until this particular issue is brought to our attention, so that all aspect of our norms both at home and abroad in relation to our language and are jointly discussed and reviewed so that positive change and attitude can be made and cultivated.
IT IS ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP AND ATTITUDE TO OUR LANGUAGE RIGHT IN OUR OWN AND BELOVED LAND AND COUNTRY OF NIGERIA!
It is unbelievable and this story needs to be told. We need to look at this social norm together and make a positive change.
Read about this in my next blog.