Nigerians Warned against Extinction of Native Languages


Mary Ekah
Although language is regarded as an important item of a people’s identity, it is feared that about 50 per cent of over the 6000 languages that exist today are losing speakers due to military, religious, economic, cultural and educational subjugation, while a great number are under the threat of extinction.

The Annang dialect, language of a cultural and ethnic group that lives in Southeastern Nigeria, veteran journalist and one of the founding members of Newswatch publication title, Ray Ekpu, said is one of the Nigerian languages in danger of extinction. Speaking at the Annang Heritage Lecture Series organised by Ati Annang Foundation, Lagos Chapter, tagged, ‘Annang Nation: Evolution, People, Culture and Trade’, Ekpu said that while people generally abandon or fail to speak their languages to overcome discrimination or to secure livelihood or to enhance social mobility or to assimilate to the global market, Annang language is endangered for a number of reasons.

These he said included lack of books or other documents written in Annang and people moving away from their rural areas where the language is spoken to cosmopolitan centres where English or pidgin English is largely spoken. Some, he said merely feel it is uncivilised or even primitive to speak in vernacular and the only way to show that they are well educated is to speak English only.

Ekpu lamented that even parents and worse still schools, discourage kids and wards from speaking their languages because they think they will not fit into the global marketplace.
This Ekpu said was worse in cross cultural marriages or where the mothers who are often close to the kids are career women and have very little time for bonding vernacular language-wise with their kids.

He therefore commended Ati Annang group for the initiative, noting, “By education, exposure and experience you are our cognoscenti, our battle axe, our thought leaders, our pathfinders, our thunder and lightening, our forensic warriors, our animal with horns given to you so that you can pave the path for those animals without horns.”

Ekpu who advised the group to be more worried than any about the education of Annang kids, said, “that was what can set us free and give us wings with which to fly. That is what can give us the lifebuoy with which to float.” He promised to work with the group and others for the benefit of Annang people.

Chairman, Ati Annang Foundation, Lagos, Out Udom said the lecture aimed at bringing about convergence of Annang indigenes in Lagos and its environs to bond together as a people. Udom stressed further that the lecture was a step at the right direction, especially at the particular period when all ethnic nationalities in the country are in search of self-discovery and actualisation.