The Value And Importance Of Igbo Language To Children In Diaspora

 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.
Written By:
Oriaku  Chinwe Onyeachonam
Onye nkuzi Igbo  Toronto

Chukwu gozie unu.

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9 comments

  1. We have started Igbo language school in Perth western Australia but we are still struggling to find resources . Are you able to share your extensive knowledge and work with us . My email address is iafrika@hotmail.com

    1. Hey Chidi,
      What kind of information do you need? We have Igbo Language school in Canada and also have Igbo teachers teaching in those schools.

      1. Hi, I am exactly the child that was raised in this way. I was not taught Igbo as a child and therefore have nonknowledge of the language. Now in my 30s I am very eager to learn so I can speak with my family in Nigeria and also teach my children.
        Iocated in Kitchener ontario and have not been able to find a reliable school or tutor. Do you have any suggestions?
        Also, this post was written about a year ago, I would also like to suggest online classes through Skype. Where an online live presence could help many Igbos of the diaspora across Canada.

        1. Sorry for responding late. Could you please contact us at info-at-igbounioncanada.com.

          We will be able to connect you. The value of speaking your language cannot be overemphasized.

  2. Please am looking for the contact info of chinwe onyeachonam.she is my relative and we have lost track since please help me.

  3. I want to seek for employment to teach Igbo in Canada.
    A bu m nwa Afo Igbo amuru na onicha
    A bu m oriaku Chinonso Geraldine Ezuka
    A bu m onye Enugwu Ukwu n’ anambra steeti.
    A nu go m Di buruzia onye umuchu nke di n’anambra steeti
    E nwetaram bsc na biochemistry
    Nwekwa PGD na education
    Akuziela m nkuzi AFO asaa ma burukwa school administrator na ala anyi bu Nigeria.
    Oga aburu m nnukwu I he anuri ma unu bu umu nwannem wee mu n’oru.
    Daalu
    Di ka m n’elegara anya maka okpukpo oku umu.

  4. I am Zeribe Ifechukwu, am from Umunze in orumba south local government area. Anambra state. I studied Lingustics and other Nigeria languages in University of Nigeria Nsukka. Actually Igbo language is fading away, everyone is forming English speaker and thereby negelecting our mother tongue Igbo, nobody want to study Igbo language in the university because they are ashamed of speaking Igbo.
    I am proud of my language, so therefore I studied it in the university and also speak it wherever I find my self because I know the value of speaking Igbo.
    If I can be given opportunity to teach children especially those outside Nigeria, I will appreciate that so that our language will not die.

    1. I appreciate your passion for Igbo language and very true our language is getting to the point of extinction. We need people like you to keep it on.
      However, I am not sure how easy it is to get the Igbo teaching jobs but I have seen Igbo teachers in Canada

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