The Igbo language is such an important language of heritage. We are able to communicate with our kids from both back home and in Diaspora at large. However as the new generations are born, we tend to be losing our ‘mother tongue’ within them. A lot of these children speak fluent English, French, German, Italian etc as their first language. Of course the immediate response would be to blame the parents for the lack of cultural trainings.
However we have to remember that we live in the society where parents are fed absurd information and myths by the ‘western world experts’ as to why our children have to refrain from their ‘mother tongue’. These teachings are hereby internalized in most of the parents in Diaspora. Just to name a few of these myths; the fact that a child learning two new languages at once confuse and interrupt his/her speech experience and also delays it at once in some cases.
Therefore when these parents are fed with these information by so called ‘experts’, they internalize it and skip out on teaching their children our beautiful language.
Self identification is vital to our children, the young generation at large. Learning the language at a very tender age will aid our children to a better sense of belonging. Take Indians or Chinese for example, they speak and teach their children their mother tongue no matter what part of the world they reside in. Why can’t our children be given such ability?
Through early teaching of the Igbo language to the new generation, we not only pass down our language but also we pass down our cultural heritage, norms, rules and values, the list goes on.
Another myth is that a lot of Igbos, believe that by speaking Igbo around our children on a day to day basis, that they will miraculously absorb our language. Without conscious attempt to teach these young children in Diaspora with their mother tongue, they will resist learning it because they are surrounded by the essence of different languages in which the predominant one stands to be English. Therefore as a young child, he/she will opt for what they define as the ‘most valuable’ language and the one which majority of the people speak; English. Before puberty is the perfect time to teach our children the Igbo language because it becomes harder although NOT IMPOSSIBLE for them to learn a brand new language after puberty. Thus we as parents need to act with passion, commitment, power and control over our younger generations’ knowledge of our ‘mother tongue’.
Therefore for us to preserve our cultural norms, values and rules, we need to formulate a plan to use in teaching our children our language. Number one key suggestion is through socialization of the younger generations, we as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, need to internalize the speaking of our ‘mother tongue’ thus have the ability and confidence to speak, teach and demonstrate to our children. Children in Diaspora are already disadvantaged and I use the word disadvantaged loosely- of the enriched core cultural way of life children back home benefit from. Hence it is up to us as authoritative figures to work hard to incorporate conscious Igbo speaking and teaching into our everyday lives; be it through songs, prayers, instruction giving etc. Outside the home, let us push for the regular attendance of our children to Igbo schools, Igbo church services etc.
Also another tip would be to primarily organize an Igbo weekend away for our children – it can be in the form of overnight camps or day time camps –where they participate in Igbo illustrated activities such as building trust seminars, movies, dancing around the bonfires, moonlight story times over a hot cup of chocolate all in Igbo as they continue to learn our core traditions. I’m pretty sure that you as an adult can reminisce over a time when your grandparents or even parents summoned you and your siblings after weekend dinners to tell stories in the Igbo language; akuko ifo; let’s bring our traditions back! Also in addition, youths aged 12 – 20 years, that migrated to the Diaspora with full knowledge of the Igbo language can also get involved with the younger generations that do not know how to comfortably express themselves using the language i.e. Mentor/Mentee programs should be implemented and incorporated into our everyday Igbo community lives and followed up with to ensure adequate meet ups and involvement from both parties. These are a few ‘hurt no-one’ tips that we can take up in order to preserve our history and traditions.
Other initiatives we can take as the older generations, is to incorporate home schooling/tutoring time for the Igbo language, building a role of ‘mother tongue’ educators that will travel from school to school to ensure that the Igbo students are still aware of their language and of its importance. Being that we live in a technologically controlled society now-a-days, where majority of the young generation are constantly active online, encouraging our children to visit the Igbo website (Igbo911.com) we can go as far as creating Igbo language apps for every age group. Starting from simply making the instructions or theme songs in toddlers’ developmental games in the Igbo language i.e. majority of mothers download developmental gaming apps on their Ipads for their children to aid them with shapes, story comprehension and active listening skill, why not start early?! Still on the app initiative, the older males and females that have access to mobile phones can have mobile apps that cater to their personal interests/gaming preference all in the Igbo language. I strongly believe that little changes like those ones listed above will aid us further with achieving our common goal of our children’s’ ability to learn and retain the Igbo language.
Conclusively, we have to be involved and act with passion in order to avoid the total loss of our language to the future generations.
Oriaku Chinwe Onyeachonam
Onye nkuzi Igbo Toronto
Chukwu gozie unu.