The Future of Most Nigerian Languages: on the way to extinction
Languages go into extinction for various reasons which may include dying of all the speakers of the language, domination of a more preferred language etc. Such languages are called endangered languages. This is not a new issue in language situations. It has been since 1700BCE. Nigerian languages are seriously threatened by both external and internal forces. The internal situations are those that arise within Nigeria, and the external are those that affect Nigerian languages from around the world. In anyway, the two are still connected.
In many families today, parents rarely speak their indigenous languages to the children. Therefore the children grow up not speaking the language, thereby are not able to teach it to their own children. This will mean that in this family, the language is already extinct. As this continues to expand to other families, the language dies gradually until it will come to a point that no one will be found speaking the language. This is a serious threat to Nigerian languages. These are few signs that many languages in Nigerian are on the danger list.
Causes of Language Extinction in Nigeria
Inter-tribal marriage is on the increase in Nigeria. Inasmuch as it has its advantage in the promotion of national peace, it weakens the possibility of promoting and sustaining our indigenous languages. If two people from different language backgrounds get married, usually only one language is used in the family, and rarely does every member of the family learn and speak the language. In fact the dominant experience is that the children grow up not speaking any other two languages of their parents fluently. Because of the lack or fluency, the children are not able to teach any of the languages to their own children thereby leading to the death of the two languages at the same time.
Multilingualism is what eventually leads to inter-tribal marriages. However, there are other ways it affects sustenance of the local languages. In a community dominated by people from different language background such that it is only within a small family group that a language is spoken, often as a result of urbanisation, language extinction is likely to happen. The children are and even the parents are likely to adopt a lingua franca as means of communication in the family because that is the language they speak most of the time especially because they spend more time with members of other families than members of their own families.
Preference of English language over indigenous languages
English language has gained so much acceptance in Nigeria that local languages no longer carry much prestige. Parents encourage their children to speak English at home, or they allow the use of English and their indigenous language. But in most cases, the children tend to be more comfortable with English than any other indigenous language.
Lack of adequate use of literature materials of Nigerian languages
A good number of Nigerian languages are documented in various forms. For instance the bible has been translated into several Nigerian languages; but the questions is ‘how many people read them’. It is true that those who are considered authority in the language are mostly the aged uneducated parents in the villages. They cannot read the written language but they are the better speakers. The young who have learnt to read are not interested in reading the languages. The literature materials are therefore underused or not even used at all. If the literatures of a language are not used by the speakers, then such language will not be promoted.
Lack of technological advancement
Technologically advanced nations use their technology to promote their languages. Operation manuals are written in the languages of the producers of the product. Nigeria is still struggling to advance technologically, so how can it use technology to promote its languages? It has very little to give to the world, thereby has little or no prestige.
Why do most Nigerians prefer English to their local languages?
- It enables them to communicate freely, and in and out of their community.
- It is a proof that they are educated, or that they are not illiterates.
- It is the language of the world in the sense that it is spoken in most countries.
- It is the major language of technology.
- It is rich in words such that it can be used in any field of knowledge. The Nigerian languages cannot adequately be used to address all issues of life.
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