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Ayobami Esther: Let Your Children Learn Your Indigenous Language



I was on the bus the other day when some woman began chastising her daughter for speaking Yoruba to her little brother.

She didn’t mind that she was in public. She went on to correct her daughter in her shattered, discombobulated and very irritating albeit humorous supposedly “English language.”

To say I was traumatised by how this lady assaulted everyone in the vehicle, especially her kids, with her terrible grammar is an understatement. Trust me, guys, this lady would definitely give Jenifa a run for her money.

She went on and on conversing with her daughter with her terrible grammar and pronunciation, which made one of the passengers in the vehicle laugh aloud. “Madam, just speak your native language to this girl and save us all this headache. I’m sure your girl understands Yoruba perfectly,” the irritated passenger blurted out.

I wished I could hug him at that moment. He’d said exactly what I had on my mind.

This didn’t go well with the woman though. She began shouting in her “discarded Yoruba language.” She chastised her daughter for speaking earlier. Apparently, that was the only language in which she could express herself comfortably. Very disturbing, right? She asked, continuously, if the passenger knew how much her daughter’s tuition cost. She wanted her daughter not to speak Yoruba so she wouldn’t corrupt her English.

The guy was about to reply when I signalled to him to ignore her. But he didn’t listen. They went back and forth till I reached my destination.

Please, what exactly is this craze among parents who ban their children from speaking their native language? What exactly is going on? When did our indigenous languages become so archaic that the mere thought of speaking it to your children has become so scary? Is this a result of the inferiority complex that has messed up our psyche as Africans? Or is it just the craze to sound more “British” or “American” than the Caucasians themselves?

You know, what I find disgusting is when some give silly excuses like: I don’t speak my native language to my children, neither do i encourage them to speak it because I don’t want to corrupt their English. It’s just so ridiculous!

When did our indigenous languages become a virus, ehn? If the British, who we are trying so hard to imitate, didn’t embrace their language how exactly would we have learnt the English Language correctly?

How can we put a stop to this menace? With the way things are going in this country, I really hope in the next fifty to hundred years to come, our indigenous languages would not have gone into extinction.

Dear Millennials, let’s stop depriving these wonderful and inquisitive kids the opportunity of embracing their indigenous languages. It’s absolutely their right. Trust me, it will never make them appear crude. Just make sure you send them to a very good school when they are young. The foundation matters most. There is absolutely nothing wrong if they learn both their native language and the official language. It will even afford them a vast knowledge of the two languages.

Say no to neocolonialism. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. Allow your kids to interact with you freely in their respective indigenous languages. Encourage them to ask you questions about your culture and tradition. Not everything is demonic abeg.

Teach them the beautiful proverbs heavily embedded in our culture. Let them embrace their identity, instead of trying to turn them into something they are not.

There’s absolutely nothing more beautiful than being able to communicate with your children in your native language. Stop robbing them of this right. It is part of our culture, encourage them to appreciate our heritage. It will never make them look uncivilised, instead, it will make them appreciate their roots better.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Akinnagbe Ayobami Esther is a Creative Writer, Book Reviewer, Content Strategist, and your HR friend. She is a polemicist, altruist, passionate believer in social equality, unapologetic Feminist, lover of books and art, a serious sapiosexual, and consummate strategist. In her spare time, she devours books, has mentally stimulating conversations with friends and blogs at Get social with her on Instagram @simply_bami on Facebook: Akinnagbe Ayobami Esther


  1. Uberhaute Looks

    August 30, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    Theirs a programme on Tvc where one woman was giving stupid reasons why patents shouldn’t allow their children speak Indigenous languages at home. I felt like giving her a hot slap!
    My child must learn at least 1 Nig. Language ooo

  2. Adeleke

    August 30, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    My 2 boys (4 & 18months) aren’t quite there yet to converse with us, but they love their Sunny Ade, KWAM1 and Barrister songs. They sing along and it is very clear. So soon, they will be fluent in Yoruba, #ProudFather.

  3. Dust

    August 30, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Its self hate, inferiority complex, superiority complex and because english is the language used to teach instead of the indigenous language.

    they are trying too hard to be their british identities – “Nigerians” – instead of their ethnic identities..

  4. Tumininu

    August 30, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    I disagree to an extent, the article mentioned that the child was talking to her brother in yoruba language, clearly the child has been taught, is able to fluently speak and is fully abreast with her native tongue.
    It was also mentioned that the child’s mother struggled to speak correct English ( I wonder what went wrong there) this could be that the child’s mother is of the belief that during her youthful days if only she spoke the English language often those around to hear would correct her and her spoken English would be fluent today. Thus, she has the orientation that if her child speaks the English language often it will benefit the child in the long run (who knows her child may relocate), it will help her little brother’s spoken English and it helps her mother correct herself.

    Lastly, our indigenous language cannot be forgotten/lost because we have tones of people in Nigeria that cannot read, write or speak English, who rely solely on the native language, also there are parts of Nigeria if not all, if a person lives there for a long period of time some way and some how learn (if not all) our indigenous language. For instance alot of people from the igbo region living in Lagos speak fluent yoruba.

  5. gbaskelebo

    August 30, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    I so submit with my hat doffed… Beautiful piece!

  6. Mela

    August 30, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    My two year old can pronounce some words in Igbo. She knows the parts of her body in Igbo language. Am happy when she speaks Igbo and English together.
    I think I need to make a video of her for keeps ??

  7. Nwaadaigbo

    August 31, 2018 at 6:14 am

    I can never understand why people do this. When we were kids, my mum spoke both Igbo and English to us. People would ask her why she was speaking Igbo to us, Imagine! And she would reply that a child has to grasp his/her mother tongue, and that would aid faster assimilation of other languages. True that, because I and my siblings speak English so well, and I speak a little French and Spanish. All here in Naija oo. If you want to learn Igbo or teach your children, hit me up on IG @nwaadaigbo

  8. Sherlie Holmes

    August 31, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    This is spot on. I live in the US where I see Asians and Hispanics speak their native languages to their children. These same children who are fluent in their languages, also speak perfect English without an accent. I believe children get the best of both worlds when they’re bilingual/multilingual. My mom ensured we understood and spoke Yoruba growing up, now I’m SUPER grateful for it. Shoot, I wish I learned spanish and french sef!

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