By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
With many Nigerian indigenous languages, including efuts and kiongs languages in Cross River state going into extinction, a Professor of Linguistics and Communication in the University of Calabar (UniCal), Offiong Ani Offiong, has said constant communicating in and documenting languages were the solution to stopping the anomaly.
Offiong, who spoke in Calabar while delivering the 100 inaugural lecture of the University with the topic: ‘For the Love of Your Language; What is this Word Called in Your Language?’ said the development could be brought under control through the love of one’s language.
“To ensure that our languages do not die, we must love our languages deeply. If no conscious effort is made to ensure we look inwards, the tendency is, language extinction,” he stated and noted that some indigenous languages in Nigeria were dying due to globalization, imperialism and neocolonialism.
Prof Offiong reiterated that to stop language death, speakers of such language should give it priority attention through constantly communicating in it and that lack of education amongst speakers of a particular language encourages shift and eventual extinction.
The Inaugural lecturer noted that even the elites of a particular ethnic group look down on their language thinking that other languages were superior to theirs and therefore called on Nigerians to ensure that their language is a priority when communicating with their kinsmen.
Maintaining that language is at risk of being lost when it is no longer taught to the younger generations while fluent speakers of the language are still alive, he encouraged Nigerians to consciously speak their native language to their children as a way of developing and promoting it. He said when languages are documented, it will be difficult for extinction to take place.
He furthermore charged the federal government to deliberately initiate policies and work towards the sustenance and promotion of Nigerian languages to avoid extinction, lamenting that many Nigerians were allowing their mother tongue to go into extinction due to English language dominance.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria should directly initiate a clearly articulated, coherent and comprehensive national language policy and its implementation strategy so that every language in Nigeria can be accommodated in the plan of things.
“The over 555 languages spoken in Nigeria require and deserve harnessing and efficient management in the same way other kinds of resources are managed. Such management should be done only through a direct government policy that should be entrenched in the constitution,” he had advised.
He said that with conscious efforts on the part of the government, traditional institutions and all critical stakeholders, the anomaly could be controlled.
In her remarks, Prof Florence Obi, the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, said “Our language and culture defines us as a people, it is our identity,” and called on the various ethnic nationalities in the country to redouble their efforts towards the development of their languages to avoid extinction.