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Akpo Uyeh: My Language, Your Language, Our Language



dreamstime_m_52351002Growing up was fun. From infancy to adulthood, every experience has shaped me into the individual I have become. However, my life story is incomplete without a sheer regret. That is my inability to be fluent in my native dialect. Even with both parents from the same tribe and same village, I should have been in better position to be a Pro in my dialect but the reverse is the situation. Well, I’m still very much a learner. Shey it is better late than never.

Kparakpo meetings in school was a good avenue to learn my native dialect and culture. It exposed me to the rich awesome side of my culture. Even though not I am not fluent, at least I was able to pick a thing or two.  Sunday school as a kindergarten helped matters a bit. Since the church was a native church, Sunday school teachers strictly spoke in our native dialect. At least I learnt how to say the alphabets, the Lord’s prayer,the numbers, greetings and all. But somehow tables turned as I grew older and had to drift to another place of worship. I think the best time to instill languages into children is when they are very young-as in catching them young.

I was surprised when I visited a colleague in her house, her two-year-old daughter was speaking the Yoruba language fluently. Mind you she is from a much-learned family. I was very surprised, so I asked. Her mother told me that her grandma made it mandatory that from the onset that it is good for children to know how to speak their mother tongue. At home was strictly for their native dialect, then in school, she could learn big grammar as it applies. Not bad, if you ask me. It was the ease at which her daughter spoke the language that really caught my attention.

While some parents would frown at the idea of local dialect as unrefined, some others value the need and importance. I choose to go with the latter. No matter how educated you are, you should still go back to your roots. It is an advantage if both parents are from mixed tribes then their offspring could learn both languages if not one, abi? Some indigenous languages have dominated the minority ones. We all know that there are major languages in Nigeria. Even with over 521 languages spoken in Nigeria and it appears 9 of them have gone extinct. If care is not taken others would follow suit. Some indigenous languages would just fade out and nobody would place them in history.

The English language is not bad itself but it should not replace what is rightfully ours. After all, who English epp?(On a more serious note. It helped me pass JAMB, WAEC, land admission in University,write winning proposals,read and understand, communicate effectively, pass my exams,get a job and more). I must say that someone who cannot speak English fluently is a big turn-off sha.

My ears are quick to pick up grammatical blunders and when I make them, I quickly make corrections. In primary school, I never understood English Language classes, what actually worked for me was if the sentence was pleasing to ears. Somehow when it does not flow then I knew it was the wrong choice of words. The English language goes beyond playing with words, it was about the syntax of English. But the English language could be confusing at times and some people have hidden in the disguise that  the English Language is a borrowed language to ”blow fuse”. They have a point though that is not a solid excuse to be unable to speak well. The English language is our lingua franca and mode of communication no doubt but our indigenous language still have their roles and relevance in our society.

I think I was made to believe that knowing how to speak oyibo made you appear polished and educated. Well, it might be true to an extent, but we all know that indigenous language is deeper than what we imagine. It has broken enmity. In time past, people were saved from war and ethnic disputes because of their ability to converse in their native tongue. Indigenous language creates a bond. It is a means of identification. Our identity. Our word. It is our culture. Our pride. It is our heritage. It promotes unity and mutual trust.

There are many scenarios native dialect has helped. Is it in the market when you can form an ally with seller just because you are her town’s person? Or is it when you want to speak in codes to prevent amebos (gossips) from prying into your matter? Even our proverbs sound better and their meanings pass across deeply in our indigenous language? Have you tried worshipping/praising  God in your native dialect? It is sweeter and deeper. After all, God understands all languages. What of our native names? Names are better expressed in our native dialect. Long as they may seem, they hold deep revelations and strong affirmations.Their meanings are deeply felt.

What do you think of our indigenous language?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Akpo Patricia Uyeh is a witty Blogger| Freelance writer| Geo-Journalist. A Sunshine lover. Music enthusiast. She blogs via Òmòté Rò Dhé


  1. Author Unknown

    October 12, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    “I was surprised when I visited a colleague in her house, her two-year-old daughter was speaking the Yoruba language fluently. Mind you she is from a much-learned family”

    Mind you she is from a much-learned family? Why is that so surprising when in your own words “No matter how educated you are, you should still go back to your roots”. I am not attacking you O. Just trying to make you see that your inability to learn may be tied to what you have yourself acknowledged – that speaking oyinbo makes you appear educated and polished, which suggests speaking your native language would be the reverse. You may still carry this around subconsciously. Many of us do to a certain extent. Why do I sense if you had the same degree of exposure to French or Spanish as your native language, that would be listed on your LinkedIn profile as fluent 🙂 I’m happy you added the name issue to it because that’s something else that is starting to get ridiculous. Denzel? What the heck does Denzel mean? You’re not even pronouncing it right.

  2. Barr Donaldson

    October 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you,Uyeh,I like your piece and more grease to your elbow.our languages are losing fast due mainly to English language.our only way out to safe our languages remains that we should reframe our school curriculum to be like that of Japanese.that the first 7years of every child education learning should be in our mother tongue.this should be compulsory in both nursery and primary this way,our languages will be safe.

  3. Shalewa

    October 13, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Well said. We live out of Nigeria now and how I wish I brought up my children to speak yoruba. I am praying the language doesn’t die with me.. I wonder where the practice of speaking English as first language to our children came from sef

  4. Molusolape

    October 13, 2016 at 2:16 am

    1. You need to be able to conceive of your mother tongue as a language and not a dialect.
    2. Stop taking so much pride in your ability with English which is based solely on how ‘sweet’ it sounds to you.
    3. Use your language to grow your knowledge of it.
    4. Rather than being surprised that a little girl from an educated home can speak Yoruba, be surprised (and ashamed) that with all your education you can’t speak your language or even understand the grammar of the language you claim to know and use so well.
    5. Until a native speaker of English is able to understand you when you speak, don’t brag about your competence in the language.
    6. I think no language is better than the other it is just what we use them for that varies.

  5. Egwom Victor Nzie

    June 1, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    What is the meaning of kparakpo

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