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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Family Values

So I have these cousins who were born in the village. Their parents brought them back to Lagos when they were 6, 5 and 3, and they've been living in Lagos since then but the irony of it all is that these cousins of mine can neither speak Igbo which is their native language nor the Yoruba language, where they grew up. All they can speak is English...weird right? Considering that they were born in their village.

My sisters and I were all born in Lagos, and we hardly visit the village, but we speak Igbo fluently because that was the language our parents spoke with us...we have never conversed in English with my parents.

So my question is this: those of you who live abroad and have started a family, how do you ensure that your children understand and can speak their native language?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

My daughter just about 2years old, and she understand words like 'gba' 'kuro''unun(no)' 'joko' just as she understands english. I speak yoruba to her and english and she's not confused. Occassionally i speak ondo here and there - but not so that she understands it at this age, but she must be able to speak yoruba and eventually understand ondo dialect. Some parents just think its 'posh' for their children not to be able to speak yoruba (at least for those in the UK) which is very backward of them though.

cheetarah said...

my parents arent the same lang so i cant speak either coz we didnt speak it at home, we all speak one common lang and english but that isnt too say weve lost anything. I hate it when we go to the village and they refer to us as 'oyinbo' becoz we cant reply them in the dialects spoken,thats naija for you. weve been told that if there ever a civil war we will be in deep shit as we cant speak niether,lol!
As to ur question, my kids will speak whatever lang my husband and I speak,be it hausa or yoruba because it is necc for family gossip isnt?lol!

Nwanyi Ocha said...

My parents didn't speak igbo with us and although they've taken steps to rectify that, i still have issues speaking however, i understand everything! I'll be sending my kids to the village to learn or have someone come teach them. Nahhh... the village

Anonymous said...

I am igbo,I was born in Lagos and I speak Igbo and Yoruba fluently,thanks to my parents.

snazzy said...

the same way you ensure you child learns it here, by speaking it to them when they are young. One of my aunt's lived in london and was married to a white guy. She spoke only yoruba to her kids after birth figuring that since they were in jand he would pick up english. I don't know how that worked out in the long run but it sounded like a plan.

However "the speak native at home" approach would be easier if the parents are from the same tribe. Still i know multi-tribal kids that speak both, as opposed to me who speaks neither.

~Mimi~ said...

Well language is easy to pick up. Once the kids hear them speak it and it is spoken to them... they will pick it up.

No one teaches a child (i mean like sit down to teach) language, once it is spoken to the child from when they can converse, they will learn to speak any language just like they learn to speak english.

Annengineear said...

Tell me about it Linda. I am not a full Nigerian, I have not lived in Nigeria all my life and I have every excuse to why I cant speak Igbo..but my dear, I can speak Igbo..even my local dialect (Ngwa), I know all the slangs in the books and when it comes to getting down and dirty with the language I know...but that doesnt mean that my english is poor..learning a different language doesnt make your strength in the previous language poor or anything....thats what many people got to understand...apparently, people who are linguistically strong and can speak multiple languages at a tender age are said to grow up much more smarter and can adapt to changing life much more easily.

Iyaeto said...

I won't lie.My kids don't speak yoruba but during these summer holidays in 9ja, one of them learnt to say "kilo n se e"(what is wrong with u). It doesn't matter.I learnt to speak yoruba when i got to 9ja. So I believe my kids would do thesame.But they know when you're talking about them in yoruba.I know we'll get there

dream said...

I could care less. Nigerian dialects are of no use outside of Nigeria, if at best. I wonder what benefit it would be to them other than for the parents pleasure.

Luckily, English is spoken all across Nigeria. I'd rather my kids spend more time learning French, Spanish, or German which would give them a global advantage.

The language of preference in my home is English, and was with my parents also. I speak Yoruba occasionally to my kids, it usually means signifies that I'm mad at them :)

Eziaha said...

Very funny. When people start making noise about dialect and all, i never get it cos to me tz not an issue. i am FIERCELY igbo and speak igbo ONLY when i want to (like gossip). But when i meet elderly people esp in the village and i greet them in English and they go 'ndi township, bla bla bla' and try to make it seem like 'ndi n'asu igbo,fa n'aga elu-igwe'(those that speak ibo are going to heaven),i make sure i dont speak a word of ibo again. Shoot me if you must.

Vera Ikeji said...

Yes Lind,
We were born in Lagos but speak Igbo fluently as well as Yoruba. Like Linda rightly said, we speak Igbo with our parents but speak yoruba or pigdin amongst ourselves(me and my siblings). we only speak English to people we are formal with. Speaking Ur native language is very nice. You have an advantage to say things to ONLY people u want to understand u. U can gossip and do whatever and have the other person(s) stare at u and wonder what u are saying.
Ride On!!!

Anonymous said...

being able to speak more than one language has been proven to be more beneficial than speaking only one. children acquire language(s) as they hear it whether one or more and they DO NOT get confused. Eventually, they will be able to speak both or more fluently.

All one needs do, whether home or abroad, is speak their language(s) to their children; they WILL pick it up. No language is superior to the other; those who think that speaking only English is superior are actually the inferior ones!!!

Atutupoyoyo said...

For the kids born abroad it is very difficult. There are not many Naija couples I know here whose kids speak or even understand their native tongues.

Big girls dont cry said...

When I get married and have children,I'll make sure my children speak my native language.

truth said...

Hope y'all are doing great!

hmm, interesting topic. My folks speak different languages and from what I understand, our learning the languages only became an issue when we became teens (private-talk age ehy?). I hear but speak little of my mum's dialect. I'm a zero at my dad's.I speak yoruba fluently enough since I lived in the west.

That said, at this age i'll rather learn a globally relevant language than spend eternity trying to perfect my mother tongue. My hilarious mother-in-law-to-be suggest Mr and I go to 'ibo school'....SAY WHAT??? needless to say she needs to realize central ibo( their dialect) ain't mine so I don't share her passion for 'ibo school'.
The asians and indians abroad are great at keeping their kids grounded linguistically. Maybe we shd look to them for insights.I bet it's all about speaking it to the kids from the word go.

Meadows j. said...

Linda its a realy hard one as we both spoke different languages however, since my mum started visiting us my kids are starting to understand little igbo and would sometimes say 'biko' and 'ndo'.I hurt myself one day and my 2yr old son said 'kpele' mummy, it was really lovely to him hear say that and my hubby couldn't stop telling everyone about it.

Dreamwks said...

Naija sha.. I'm not sure it's a question of language superiority. I think the question implies that you don't live in Nigeria.

Personally, I think it's a question of what's beneficial to you and your family and what makes you competitive in a global economy. However, since you want to talk of language superiority, Hausa and Swahili are actually more superior dialects because they are spoken by far more Africans than Yoruba and Igbo.

Now, if I lived in Nigeria, there would be no question, my children would learn Yoruba or any other dialect that was the language of communication. Children unlike adults can easily learn any language up until the age of 4. Half of you that claim to speak your dialect can't even understand one word when you go to your village where the undiluted stuff is being spoken.

years ago, I actually had a recruiter tell me to take Yoruba off my resume, after it was listed under bilingual as a secondary language, hmm...this was after he asked me what that was.

French would actually be the secondary language of choice for my children given the fact that it is spoken in over 60% of African countries, and can be used in many countries. I always try to think outside my village, and by the way, who said you couldn't gossip in English or any other language for that matter.

Anonymous said...

@ATUPOYOYO- HOW COME IT IS SO DIFFICULT FOR US NIGERIANS TO SPEAK OUR NATIVE TONGUE TO OUR CHILDREN EVEN IF THEY WERE BORN IN THE WESTERN WORLD? THE CHINKOS AND THE EAST INDIANS FIND IT EASY TO SPEAK THEIR LANG TO THEIR CHILDREN, SO I SEE NO REASON WHY WE SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME.

AND I'VE NOTICED THAT NIGERIANS ARE VERY FOND OF IT(ESPECIALLY YORUBAS). I'M NOT BEING TRIBALISTIC OR ANYTHING COS I HAPPEN TO BE A YORUBA GIRL.

YOU LOOSE UR ROOTS WHEN YOU CAN'T SPEAK UR NATIVE LANG(ACCORDING TO AN ASIAN BOY). AND NA TRUE TALK.

Nyemoni said...

Nice topic, strikes a chord in me cos I speak my language; my hubby doesn't speak any (his parents are from diff parts of 9ja) I've tried to speak my language to my daughter but she just refuses to listen! She understands things like come, go, sit, take this, how are you, and such but it's much harder than it looks...I'm an advocate for learing additional languages but it's not easy men!

Anonymous said...

My husband is english and does not speak yoruba which i miss so much, u know that passionate way the words roll out, when the kids come ,i will relish speaking to them mainly in yoruba,infact i will speak it to them in the owanbe way sef,as for english they will learn in school.
I donot want my children to miss out on thier beautiful heritage and one day back to africa to look for ....as the african americans do today.
I want them to be wholesome i owe them that especially becos they will be mixed race and may start to feel neither here nor there,but i feel that if they know thier heritage like some nigerian families or some english families or whereever do,it will help give them a direction,as for me my Dad was a successful young man before he passed on at a young age and now everytime i want to give up on my dreams like we all sometimes feel like,i just say to myself you've got it in your genes to be successful so go for it,same as language am yoruba and we have stories of historic heros who were not just successful but good people too and this gives hope and strength.You are your heritage and your heritage is you,if not why is it that am always quick to point out sucessful nigerians to my husband and i hate it when i see nigerians scamming abroad,its cos am a part of it,ain't it.

~Mimi~ said...

yea its a book i am currently writing. how are you?? bet you're great, at least you look great ;)

Bobby said...

I was born in Lagos, lived in Lagos, moved out of Lagos when i was 15. I never for once spoke any languages.

My mother is Igbo, my father is Yoruba...

Cant speak either.

I can understand it a bit...but thats where it stops and yes i remember all the insults my mother would rain on me for being bad, in Igbo...

I have a son that will be 2 in october. My husband is Yoruba.

My husband speaks Yoruba to my son and my in laws (who are here as well) also speak Yoruba to him.

I just sit and stare...cause i cant speak the language.

I am trying to learn now, believe it, to speak Yoruba. Some tell me that my Yoruba is painful to listen to.

But i am at least trying.

My son also attends a french immersion day care where they speak french to him there as well.

Poor child!

O well...i am still trying. I will get there.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Lagos and it turns out that the only Yoruba i was exposed to came from my grandma who lived with us. You can bet that it came back to bite me (that i wasn't as fluent) esp. when i went to visit Yoruba-speaking families. I have since greatly improved on my speaking but looking back now; it is not so much learning the language to feel 'among' but preserving our unique heritage. This does not mean knowing just our languages (as most of us erroneously place focus on) but understanding our history (culturally and politically), the basis for our cultural and social practices and how it can be enhanced to make a better Nigeria. How many of us understand what led the conquests of our national/cultural heroes like Usman Danfodio, Tafawa Balewa, Awolowo, Akikiwe? How many of us know the basis of our ancient folklore and their use in passing on important lessons through generations? Nigerians, let us not make another mistake. As a wise pundit once said; "it is only through looking at our past that we can determine our future."

Gucci said...

my 4 year old nephew who lives in england and has only been to nigeria once for only a week and half speak ibo and reads some ibo text books too.

Like we made it a point not to listen to whatever he had to say unless he said it in ibo, he speaks english 8 to 5, 5 days a week at nursery but he knows once he steps into d home, all oyibo-ism flies outta d windows

Anonymous said...

'However, since you want to talk of language superiority, Hausa and Swahili are actually more superior dialects because they are spoken by far more Africans than Yoruba and Igbo.'...by dreamwks

I don't know where you got this from but a language IS NOT superior simply because more people speak it! No language is superior to the other! It is the speakers that attach importance to it;it is also the speakers that give it 'superiority' but the language in itself is neither inferior nor superior