In primary school, at a time I was the class prefect. I had an “almost” long list of duties that I enjoyed, of which the unforgettable and most interesting ones were cleaning the blackboard and writing boldly with a white chalk “VERNACULAR IN THIS CLASS IS HIGHLY PROHIBITED!!!” This implies that anyone who doesn’t comply with “rule” of speaking English Language will be penalised. I only had to write down their names and watch them carry out their sanctions and there were cases I was at the other end having a taste of the sanctions as the “rule breaker”. English was the only acceptable language in the classroom but we took it outside the classroom and tagged Igbo speakers “local”.

    Unfortunately, we have made local a proud synonym of timid… we have given it that idea which is far from its original meaning.

Well, what would you consider as the reaction of an eight year old towards his language which has been banned in classroom with a powerful phrase “…highly prohibited”? Isn’t there another way? The truth is that he would see his language as bad! Hey… calm down, I still brag about my primary school, one of the best in the eastern state and I understand…

    …I understand that the strict activity was applied to create a better and effective ground for communication in English Language. Super! I mean, English language breaks barrier and enables social and business relationships across the world. But did you notice how much the penalties of speaking our language made words seem unintelligent once spoken in our tongue? We weighed intelligence on one’s command of English Language. Not the Idea? Not Creativity? None!

It was not different while I was in secondary school. In fact, students passed through the horror of being called “Igbotic” and referred to as “uncool” for speaking Igbo Language. Whereas, the “tush” ones who have good command of Igbo Language, intentionally made grammatical errors or were in denial of having at least a beginners knowledge in speaking the language… all in the bid to be seen as cool. Funny how grammatical errors in Igbo Language were gladly accepted with words like “You speak Igbo in a cute way” and grammatical errors in English Language were forbidden with terms describing it (the most popular should be “Gbagaun!”)

Then, in higher institution… more like worse. Speaking English grammatically correct wasn’t the end but how well can you toy with the language in British or American way? In fact, we had those who mixed both British and American accents. While those who spoke correctly grammar wise but with Nigerian accent faced the heat of being called Igbotic, too Nigerian, pure Yoruba etc. They should be proud, right? Only that they are called who they truly are not for any other reason but to make jest of them.

    Hours ago, Chukuwnomso described a beautiful picture of an Igbo bride and her train as “Igbotic” and believe me, he meant well… he commented on how the bride’s gown was magnificent and original, how it showed the cultural vibe of Igbo land… hence, the term “Igbotic”. He went ahead to make a statement: “when someone is described as “Igbotic” they get offended”. He questioned the idea as he sees it as great.

Guilty as charged!

I used to get offended whenever I drop my Igbo words or slangs and suddenly, I hear someone say; “You are Igbotic” or “You are just too Igbo”. It may be the same with you… right? We become defensive or reject the “Igbotic” nature. Well, that is proof that words are just words, what makes any word important is the meaning attached to it. We attach “Igbotic” with meanings like local (commonly known to mean timid different from the original meaning), not well educated…

It all changed when I realised that I also have the power of giving my meaning to it. A French man stays proud when called a French man. Why should I frown at being called “Igbotic”? What else could best describe my root? So let the tag flow, I am “Igbotic” “too Igbo” “extra Igbo”. Some will ask how much it has fetched me… Well, it has fetched me memories and true definition of my root! I have awesome memories of confidently standing on the alter taking the Sunday Reading in Igbo Language (Proud moments), unforgettable days of flowing in Igbo slangs with my brothers and watching my father swipe from the central Igbo to my native dialect, then English with no stress and nna ehhhh… it is too sweet! Then, the joy of meeting someone who speaks the same language as I do in a foreign environment and the deep satisfaction derived from my personal achievement of speaking so many languages.

This is not to discourage foreign languages for they are uniquely superb and I believe that language is a work of art. Yes, speaking more than one language opens the door to a world of limitlessness. Foreign languages should be encouraged in schools but Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, Igbo and so many others, should NEVER BE NEGLECTED!

Dalu o!

Written by Umahi Uju Vicky
Talking about myself welcomes me into the world of confusion, I mean, how else can I say that I am a passionate volunteer, a flexible teacher, a life loving blogger and Umahi Obianujunwa Victoria!