A friend brought her 1 yr old daughter along to the office. Quite a lovely bright girl that i love dearly. And something interesting happened during course of the day. I think the little girl said something in her mother tongue, and the mum responded, ” You speak in English and not in Yoruba!”
I was livid, i replied her and pointed out to her, her own origins and roots asking her what her rational was, forbidding her daughter from communicating in her mother tongue which is Yoruba, and not even the local dialect.
I guess i was in a rush or better put hasty for it was also closer home than i knew. I visited my Brother that very day i think, and i was chatting with him and his kids came around and i asked a question, only to be told, they can’t speak Yoruba but they hear it, but not too well. I shook my head and wondered, what is really going on with this generation?
I grew up learning how to speak the Queen’s English and i happen to have Grandmother, who is now 94 years old and still has a good command of English when she speaks, I beg your pardon, Queens English. And mind you, she never left the shores of Nigeria to visit the Queen. What we have now is far from been Queen’s English, am not even sure, the Queen still has an English. What i hear now is a sing-song tuneless English that is neither American nor British. I think am been nice, i cringe when i hear that English from our so call OAPs on radio and TV and from wannabes.
Is it about changing seasons and time? Is our culture evolving?
I think our culture is eroding. Yes times are evolving, but there are some fundamental values that should not be eroded. They form the nucleus of our identity as a “tribal” nation across all cultures. The daughter of one of our top distributors once followed him to my office. It was the first time i was seeing her and have not seen her since. But she did something that astounded me. She knelt down greeted by colleague who was seated beside me, then she turned round and did the same with me! She’s in her early teens and to cap it up, she’s Ibo.
A second instance was when i was in a colleague’s office and his two boys, less than 5 years old, walked in to greet their Dad when they returned from school, and the eldest prostrated flat to greet his dad and the younger one, did the same. And there were two mothers in that office that day, the first one said, her daughters can’t do that, the second one said, all her daughters do courtesy on their knees, the Yoruba way to everyone, to the chagrin of her Mother-in-law because, they are Ibos.
Why are we trying to do away with our origins and roots? Why are we so enamored with “Americanized” culture that lacks deep cultural values and respect for elders and also isolates families and the individual?
Interestingly, we grew up speaking our different mother tongues yet with great command of English and we didn’t turn out worse off. But right now, what do we have? Our children cannot understand one word of our mother tongue just to save their lives simply because, we believe somehow, its cool and funky to speak only English to them? Or we just never thought of it?
I did a random sampling in the course of writing this, and i asked an some colleagues about it. Here are their answers:
- His daughter is less than 6 months and he said,”i will speak Yoruba with my daughter because she must understand my root and language.”
- He has three sons, two in secondary and one in primary and he said,”it pains me that we didn’t communicate in Ibo when they were growing up, right now, Ibo is the language we use at home for they need to be able to understand and speak the language fluently.”
- He has a three year old son and he said, “i communicate to him in English, but i know he understands Yoruba for he responds when i say things to him in Yoruba. But right now, i need to be conscious of it fully.”
- She has two kids and she said, “i communicate in English mostly, occasionally in Yoruba. My son laughs at me when i talk to him in Yoruba.”
This is just an arbitrary sampling and from what i can infer, its an unconscious decision when we start communicating with our wards in English neglecting our mother tongue, and its also a deliberate decision when we communicate with them in our Mother tongue and they understand it.
The kind of upbringing we are giving to our children now, is pivotal to their integration into their roots and society when the need arise. It seems to me, we have not put much of a thought to how well rounded we want our kids to be. We seem locked down into the now, and in denial of tomorrow when it comes to dexterity of language and how valuable it will come to be for them. And we may not know it, but its implications are far reaching.
The kind of English been bandied on Social Media Platforms this day is nothing short of crass, crude English. Am sure, the Late Dr. Tai Solarin would be livid with rage, when he reads what people write. People are so uncouth with what they write when communicating with each other on social media that you wonder, this fellow is from which home? Slangs, incongruent abbreviations, disparate comments and what have you are the order of the day.
And all these is tied together by the time you look at it holistically. The saying, a river that forgets its source will dry up is quite apt to describe this situation. Take it or leave it, we are raising kids with shallow values and appreciation for the fundamental values and belief system that hold us together as a diverse nation. Its not been sentimental about the past, its about merging the core values that define us with the emerging realities of our dispensation and find a common ground that does not dispel nor deny the obvious truth.
We have a responsibility, to bring up our children, to be responsible individuals, who are well rounded and ready to take up challenges and responsibilities. Who value and respect elders and who have a clear head and focus to be led and to lead. The Nigeria of our dreams is not a Nigeria built on sentiments of the past, but on the constructive re-modeling and re-shaping of now towards tomorrow. Its about not forgetting the labors of our heroes past, but building on it and ensuring that we have a sustainable model that will secure for us, a better future and for generations yet to come. Nationalism is holding on to the values that hold us together as a nation and forging a common identity from it, charting a course for the future, and lifting the banner of our nation high.
Grammaa no be my language!!!!!
NB: Happy Birthday to my Boss and Pastor, Adeolu Akinyemi (CM) Many Happy Returns!!!!!