Moi Verses

Our Languages, Not Inferior to Any

A few years ago, I took a three months short term course in French language. I did it solely in pursuit of more knowledge, in addition to what are in my kitty and as the saying goes, no knowledge gained is wasted.

Fortunately for me, it provided an opportunity to learn some other lessons beyond the ability to speak the language. It gave me an eye opener to the fact that no language is superior to the other and every language has its own unique flow and dimensions.

That experience brings to fore the negative perception some of us have towards our native languages. Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, once cried out about the level of neglect pervading the Yoruba language pointing out that Yoruba language has failed to move with current time and has failed to assert its identity among respectable languages ruling corporate relationships in the world.

The monarch therefore challenged Yoruba scholars to rise up by conducting intensive researches to coin Yoruba equivalent to some foreign words, tools and devices.

Typical of our nature to be reactive instead of proactive, his statement caused an uproar which has abated without any plan or structure to address the situation.

One of the first lessons I learnt was that my teacher and the proprietor of the French school are both Igbo ladies. Interestingly, both of them learnt French here in Nigeria. My teacher said she picked interest in the language by herself and nothing really motivated her.

She is the type often described as having “ears for learning languages”. She was so vast in her knowledge that students come from other Francophone countries to learn from her and they were amazed at her fluency.

What I learnt from her is that no language is superior to the other and that every language have its own unique pattern. She made me realise that there are words in French that cannot be translated to English language likewise there are English words that cannot be translated to French language.

What this means that there are some words in our native languages that cannot be translated to English language and there are also words in English languages that cannot be translated to Yoruba language.

A way round it? The Oxford Dictionary, in its January 2020 updates added about 29 Nigerian slangs. Majority of these new additions are either borrowings from Nigerian languages, or unique Nigerian coinages that have only begun to be used in English.

So slangs like Okada, Chop-chop, next-tomorrow, buka, Kannywood, tokunbo, k-leg among several others are now in Oxford Dictionary.

Language is part of our culture, and any society that neglects its language may extinct. Over there, there are institutions saddled with the responsibility of updating and modernising their languages, such needs to be replicated here.

In this part of the world, in our lame duck position priding and showing off our dexterity in phonetics and Queen’s of King’s English, the Chinese have started teaching their children Igbo and Yoruba languages. I watched the clips and I was shell shocked. Do we really understand who’s knocking? The next colonial masters.

Speaking another man’s language doesn’t make you superior to your fellow brothers and sisters and there is a spiritual connection that one derives from speaking ones language.

Japan, Russia, Germany are typical examples of countries who don’t speak others people language and they are doing great. China had to revert to her native tongue when they understood the power of language.

The English and French languages are the most powerful today because they have invested heavily to keep these languages alive and up to date.
Whereas in Nigeria, culturally, we love everything foreign and relegate our own. We take pride in things that are of lesser value and publicly display our ignorance.

Advanced societies have institutions that takes care of the upgrade of the language. They make it fun to learn in the languages. Let the change we seek start from our corners. Our curriculum can be developed in our own languages.

Personally I retraced my steps when at age of 18, I discovered I couldn’t speak Yoruba fluently. Some people didn’t believe I am Yoruba.

So much that an old friend was amazed at my proficiency in Yoruba I engaged her for hours conversing only in Yoruba language. She commented ‘I noticed you can now speak Yoruba properly’.

I then told her how I invested in my personal development to not just sit on the fence but to lead the change from myself.

em>Ms Mosunmola Omokunga is a social analyst, public speaker and commentator she can be reached

Our craze for titles
As humans, we all have similar characteristics. However, what sets each one apart from the other is mental programming and this will normally have both positive and negative influences on our actions, beliefs and thoughts.

The Knowledge one accumulate, parental training, school curriculum, belief system, cultural influence and others are factors that combine together to determine mental programming of an individual.

As social animals, humans have similar behaviours, the main reason social science have come up with concepts and ideologies to address the society and her numerous issues.

The world we live in today has passed through many stages of reformations. One of such is prefixes or as we call it in our clime, titles or what comes before the real names.

Last week, I did a piece titled ‘Proper way to address a woman in an official setting’ the fuss generated by that simple effort, to enlighten and educate is yet to abate.

One point of correction here, Ms. doesn’t mean Married Single as its being interpreted in Nigeria here, even by professionals who are supposed to be in the know.

By the way, how does a prefix becomes more important than your name? Steve Job, the late co-founder of Apple, the man who modernised the Apple phone brand to what it is today, remained Steve, till he died a few years ago. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zukerberg are all simple Mr. Who title epp? Thank goodness, our own Femi Otedola has chosen to remain simply Mr, even though a senior Fuji musician once dashed him the title of Otunba in his albums.

In our clime, tittles are coined to address differences in status and educational accomplishments. But it’s being taken to an abusive level especially among the political class and the elites as well as a multitude of ‘follow follow.’

A friend once stunned me with the narratives of how he was rebuked by a Nigerian Local Government chairman, because he addressed him as Mr. in an official letter.

Our craze for titles have come so incurable to the extent that people are now on a procurement spree. I wouldn’t want to list honourary doctorate degrees and chieftaincy tittles, those ones are the exclusives to the moneybags.

I have witnessed instances where people in authority refused to attend to official issues because the would be beneficiary addressed them as Mr. or Mrs instead of Daddy, Mummy, instead of Chief, Prof., Dr. and others.

I have seen people cried foul, programme halted, MC hurriedly called to order all because the right title was not added when introducing one man.

The author of How to win Friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie, opined that “people seek relevance and acknowledgement”. So that makes it a universal phenomenon for people to want recognition.

But where a society lays more emphasis on an individual’s prefix than the solution the character brings to the table, becomes worrisome.

We are beleaguered by myriads of problems. The astronomical rising numbers of out of school children, instability in power and water supplies, decaying infrastructure and insecurity are major issues challenging Nigeria. How does a prefix before anyone’s name get us out of the wood?

Aside BVN for banking transactions and NIN to register SIMs, Nigeria, the giant of Africa has no functional central data system for anything. How does titles bring about a solution to these?

The Nigerian educational system has perennially suffered in silence. The eggheads in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions have not been able to recognise the box not to talk of thinking outside of it.

In over four decades, ASUU and its counterparts in Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have not invented any other method than strike action in dealing with its employers; the government.

The number 1 reason advanced countries are ahead is because they dispense energies on the value an individual brings to the table, harness the gifts that each individual wields for common goal which is excellence. The system is better and stronger when square pegs are in square holes and this ultimately produces a functional society.

Still on the response from last week, generally, women seem to have issues with the Ms, Miss more as a result of misconception. As I enumerated above, it doesn’t mean Married Single. It is just the opposite of Mr while addressing a woman in an official setting.
Do enjoy your weekend.

em>Ms Mosunmola Omokunga is a social analyst, public speaker and commentator she can be reached

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