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Language Teaching, Learning and Utility: A Triadic Paradigm for Revitalising Indigenous Nigerian Languages

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Abstract

In this era of linguistic globalisation and the attempt to build monocultural societies, people's cultural and linguistic rights, especially in Africa are seriously violated. The linguistic situation in Nigeria where indigenous languages have been banished from homes, schools and other vital spheres of life is a case in point. Although there has been much call for intensive teaching and learning of the languages with a view to revitalizing them, the basic fact that prospective learners see very little or no value in learning them is indicative of their neglect. To foster indigenous language teaching and learning in Nigeria, this paper posits that equal, if not greater, attention should be paid to a third essential factor - language utility. In this respect, the article dwells on political communication, health and banking as some of the strongholds of national life to find expression for the empowerment of indigenous lan- guages in Nigeria.
The International Journal of Language Society and Culture
Editors: Thao Lê and Quynh Lê
URL: www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/
ISSN 1327-774X
Language Teaching, Learning and Utility: A Triadic Paradigm for
Revitalising Indigenous Nigerian Languages
Adeyemi Adegoju
Obafemi Awolowo University
Ile-Ife
Nigeria
Abstract
In this era of linguistic globalisation and the attempt to build monocultural societies, people’s cultural
and linguistic rights, especially in Africa are seriously violated. The linguistic situation in Nigeria where
indigenous languages have been banished from homes, schools and other vital spheres of life is a
case in point. Although there has been much call for intensive teaching and learning of the languages
with a view to revitalizing them, the basic fact that prospective learners see very little or no value in
learning them is indicative of their neglect. To foster indigenous language teaching and learning in
Nigeria, this paper posits that equal, if not greater, attention should be paid to a third essential factor –
language utility. In this respect, the article dwells on political communication, health and banking as
some of the strongholds of national life to find expression for the empowerment of indigenous lan-
guages in Nigeria.
Keywords: Indigenous languages, endangerment, language education, utility, revitalisation, national
development
Introduction
The African continent is in the present times beset with diverse challenges that range from revamping
the ailing economies of nations, managing social conflicts, tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS, fixing
the daunting problem of leadership, developing in science and technology, to, above all, breaking the
jinx of that continent with most of its countries labelled ‘Third World’. It must be noted, however, that
trying to capture the African condition in the 21st century without touching on the alarming hurricane
which is blowing over African cultural values, especially the linguistic rights of the African people
would leave us with a warped re/presentation, as foreign languages such as English, French and Por-
tuguese have displaced the local languages in national development processes. No wonder then that
‘UNESCO Release on the International Mother Language Day’ ranks Africa as ‘linguistically the least-
known continent’1, in that most of its local languages are not adequately mobilised and empowered
for nation building.
Although linguistic diversity is a phenomenon common to most African countries, Blench (1998, p.1)
sees Nigeria as ‘the most complex country in Africa, linguistically, and one of the most complex in the
world’. Aito (2005) also lends credence to the innate heterogeneity of the Nigerian linguistic reality,
arguing that about 20% of Africa’s more than two thousand languages are spoken in Nigeria. But the
question of linguistic complexity in Africa generally transcends the issue of linguistic plurality. The In-
ternational Development Research Centre submits:
Linguists disagree about many aspects of the language situation in Africa, but there is no contro-
versy about the fact that, as a continent, Africa presents the most complex linguistic picture in the
world. This complexity is due not only to the number of languages spoken by Africans but also to
the diversity of the language families and of the functions assigned to the various languages spo-
ken in the same country and, in many cases, by the same individual. Across the continent, the
language situation varies widely: some countries have only one indigenous language, such as
Burundi, where everyone speaks a dialect of Kirundi; other countries have hundreds of indige-
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URL: www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/
ISSN 1327-774X
nous languages, such as Nigeria, which has at least 400. This internal complexity is not just a
matter of the number of languages — it is, above all, also a matter of the relative power and
status of the languages.2
Thus, experts have observed that of all the numerous languages in Nigeria (estimated about 500) a
few are largely spoken; a few are taught in schools and universities while most of them are hardly
documented.
Consequently, it is the apprehension of linguists, individuals and emerging cultural organisations that
Nigeria’s local languages are endangered. Apart from not using the languages in official domains, it is
worrisome that many Nigerian families are today confronted with the problem of the use of their
mother tongues. Children brought up in their immediate environment do not speak their indigenous
languages let alone read or write in them. Their parents who, though understand and use the indige-
nous languages, discourage their children from doing so and would prefer that they go for English.
How come that Nigeria is in this sordid linguistic situation? Salawu (2004) argues that communication
in indigenous languages in most developing countries has been adversely affected due to the fact of
their colonisation. He concludes: ‘This fact of history has actually affected the sensibility of the people
of the developing countries’ (Salawu, 2004, p.197). It is noted in the ‘Asmara Declaration on African
Languages and Literatures’ that ‘Colonialism created some of the most serious obstacles against Afri-
can languages and literatures […] these colonial obstacles still haunt independent Africa and continue
to block the mind of the continent’3. It is in this light that Mohochi posits that:
Current language attitudes and perceptions in Africa are, to a large extent, attributable to colo-
nial language policies which independent African states have been unable to change considera-
bly. With the benefit of hindsight, one can only conclude that colonial administration machine,
knowing the important role of language in shaping one’s identity, initiated language policies that
were meant to subdue their subjects, making them more susceptible to western languages and
cultures. Many began to disdain their languages and cultural practices, trying instead very hard
to learn the western ways.4
Besides the factor of colonialism, the current onslaught of globalization which impacts not only on the
political and economic systems of nations but also on their cultural identity is noteworthy. Maduagwu
(1999, p.3) observes that:
[…] some Third World scholars and their sympathizers argue that globalization is not as value-
free as it is being portrayed in the West. Globalization is only the latest stage of European eco-
nomic and cultural domination of the rest of the world which started with colonialism, went
through imperialism and have [sic] now arrived at globalization stage.
This viewpoint is put succinctly on BBC News by Koome Kirimi, a respondent to the poser ‘Are Indige-
nous Languages Dead?’ to mark 2006 as the Year of African Languages: ‘The world is ailing from an
illness: globalization. The give-and-take dynamics of globalization have seen African states give away
more than they've received. African states are giving away their language, their culture, and their iden-
tity’ 5.
With the clipping of the mother tongues in Nigeria in relation to their status and roles in national devel-
opment, English has always served as the official language. Regrettably, Adegbija (2004, p.34) notes
that only about 20% of Nigerians are proficient in the language. Obviously, English is largely a minority
language monopolised by the elite. This polarity in the Nigerian society as in some other African coun-
tries goes a long way to lend credence to the view that any group which has access to language
power will have consequent political and economic power and vice versa. This situation is most un-
healthy when we consider Bamgbose’s (1998, p.11) viewpoint:
The fact is that if development is to be meaningful, there is no way in which it can be carried out
in a language which excludes the majority of the people in the society. This, then, is one of the
most important justifications for putting greater emphasis on the use and development of a coun-
try’s indigenous languages.
Thus, it is in the spirit of the ‘Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures’ that ‘[…] Af-
rica must […] affirm a new beginning by returning to its languages and heritage’6, that the question of
acquiring initial literacy in African languages has been greatly emphasised. In consequence, Salawu
(2006, p.2) challenges: ‘For any African with a concern for the soul and survival of his language and
culture, there must be a deliberate and sincere effort to learn and teach the language […]’
While this paper recognises the potential of teaching and learning Nigerian local languages for em-
powering them, it considers that the ambivalence in Salawu’s (2006, p.2) disposition is compelling. For
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he turns around to lament: ‘Alas, the situation with the learning, and by extension, the teaching of Afri-
can languages is by no means cheerful. Not many young Africans are interested in learning the lan-
guages, either formally or informally’. This submission brings to the fore the question of language atti-
tudes and Adegbija (2004, p.54) explicates it thus:
Attitudes towards languages are motivated by several factors including their perceived socioeco-
nomic value, their status-raising potential, their perceived instrumental value, their perceived es-
teem, their perceived functions or roles in the nation, their numerical strength, the perceived po-
litical and economic power of its speakers, their use in the official domains, their educational
value, etc. Generally, positive attitudes, covert or overt, are developed towards a language that is
perceived to have value in all these different areas […] Conversely, negative attitudes, overt or
covert, develop towards a language in proportion to its lack of function or narrowing of its distri-
bution in registers.
Adegbija’s view above encapsulates the linguistic situation in Nigeria where the abandonment of local
languages has engendered people’s negative attitude towards them. The hard truth is that Nigerians
are poorly motivated to learn their indigenous languages. It is thus the argument of this paper that
while education in African indigenous languages is most desirable, efforts should be geared towards
making it translate to the enhancement of individual social mobility and better social economic life, and
playing vital roles in national development processes.
Following this introductory background is a review of literature on the challenges of teaching and
learning Nigeria’s local languages. After this appraisal, we will focus on some domains of Nigeria’s
national life where the enhancement of the utilitarian value of Nigeria’s local languages would tremen-
dously boost their status and roles. Finally, we will give the concluding comments.
Challenges of Teaching and Learning Nigeria’s Local
Languages
The National Policy on Education (NPE) (1977, revised 1981, 2000) requires that every Nigerian child
study at least one indigenous language which could be the child’s mother tongue or an indigenous
language of wider communication in their area of domicile at the pre-primary, primary, junior secon-
dary school (JSS) and senior secondary school (SSS) levels of education. It must be noted, however,
that although the teaching of English together with mother tongues has continuously featured in the
country’s schools since the nineteenth century, the formulation of the NPE marked a watershed in the
history of language education in Nigeria. The innovation introduced in the NPE is the teaching of the
three major indigenous languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) as second languages. This is in recogni-
tion of the fact that indigenous languages are a veritable tool of communication and a vehicle for pro-
moting national identity and preserving the people’s cultural heritage.
To implement the language provisions in the NPE, colleges of education have developed L2 pro-
grammes in the major Nigerian languages with the establishment of the Department of Nigerian Lan-
guages which have engaged in cross-ethnic teaching of these major languages (Makinde, 2005). In a
further bid to meet the imperative of training teachers and to produce audio-visual materials for teach-
ing Nigerian languages, the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) Aba was established
in 1992. In spite of these landmark efforts the teaching of indigenous languages both as first and sec-
ond language in Nigeria is fraught with some problems.
There are certain logistic and conceptual flaws in the NPE itself which have hampered effective teach-
ing/learning of the indigenous languages. As such, there are many critiques about the explicit lan-
guages’ aspect of the NPE (Emenanjo, 2002, pp. 7-9). We find out, among other shortcomings, that
there are no constitutional provisions for sanctions where the policy requirements are not imple-
mented. Although the NPE stipulates that the first language should be the medium of education at the
pre-primary school level, children who go to pre-primary schools nowadays begin with an early im-
mersion in English. This is as a result of the proliferation of private nursery schools. Adegbija (2004,
p.20) laments the sorry situation: ‘Since most pre-primary schools are privately owned, the Govern-
ment has only had a very marginal impact, if any, on language use at this level, nor has it been able to
enforce the first-language medium policy’.
In fact, the non-use of indigenous languages in such schools marks them out as ‘model’ schools with
the characteristic label ‘international’. It is rather disheartening that in this age of globalisation, we la-
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ISSN 1327-774X
bel our schools international and yet we have no indigenous values to sell to the international commu-
nity; all we do is to keep absorbing the cultures of others without having anything to offer in return. For
the African child who is just growing up and will be faced with the challenge of competing later on in a
globalised world, there is a grave danger, as they are put at a very big disadvantage when compared
to their counterpart in the western world. In this regard, Fafunwa (1982, pp. 295-296) submits:
It is our thesis that if the Nigerian child is to be encouraged from the start to develop curiosity, ini-
tiative, industry, manipulative ability, spontaneous flexibility, manual dexterity, mechanical com-
prehension and the co-ordination of the hand and eye, he should acquire these skills and atti-
tudes through his mother-tongue; after all this is the most natural learning medium. This is where
the average European or English child has a decided advantage over his African counterpart.
While the former is acquiring new skills during the first six years in his mother tongue, the latter is
busy struggling with a foreign language during the greater part of his primary education.
Teachers’ factor which is indispensable to effective teaching and learning is also a drawback to the
successful implementation of the NPE. The Technical Committee on Production of Teachers for the
Three Major Languages came out with its report in 1988. Bamgbose (2006, pp. 18-19) records:
This committee found that, with the existing secondary school classes as of that date, 55,237
teachers were needed in secondary schools, and, of this number, only 6,383 were available,
made up of Hausa (1,678), Igbo (1,117) and Yoruba (3, 588). The shortfall of 48,858 is distrib-
uted as follows: Hausa (16,313), Igbo (18,211) and Yoruba (14, 330).
It was in realisation of the challenge of teacher production that the National Institute for Nigerian Lan-
guages (NINLAN) was established. Even when NINLAN had not become fully operational, Awobuluyi
had predicted that NINLAN would not be able to produce more than a very small percentage of the
teachers actually needed for teaching the languages in question as L2 throughout the country. He
then suggested that conventional universities should be involved in the project for training L2 teachers
for those languages. But the problem of poor funding of education in Nigeria has partly affected the
scheme of training, retraining, and recruiting teachers.
To this end, we may argue that the proviso for the implementation of the policy couched in the phra-
seology ‘subject to the availability of teachers’ is, in fact, defeatist from the outset. Arohunmolase
(2006, p.3), citing Junaidu and Ihebuzor (1993), laments the prevailing circumstance thus:
[…] the problem of the supply of teachers in Nigerian languages represents one of the greatest
problems facing the curriculum development efforts in Nigeria. The introduction of Nigerian lan-
guages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba), as L2 at the JSS level and the Colleges of Education wors-
ened the compounded problem of the supply of trained teachers. It is a matter of great regret
that, adequate plans were not made for the supply of teachers before the Federal Government
decided to implement the Nigerian languages policy in the Colleges of Education.
Apart from teachers’ factor which is not properly addressed in the NPE, the question of language loy-
alty that speakers of minority languages have towards their languages has generated mixed feelings.
Recall that every child is required to study their mother tongue or the wider language of communica-
tion in the immediate community. Of all the over 450 indigenous languages, few are documented and
have suitable pedagogical materials required for effective teaching. While strong language loyalty
could force some ethnic groups to go to any length to ensure that their languages are formally taught,
speakers of minority languages could see their children’s learning the language of wider communica-
tion as portending the grave danger of their own language being completely assimilated. In this re-
gard, language loyalty sometimes occasioned by ethnic rivalry becomes counterproductive for the ef-
fective teaching/learning of the major languages.
If the issues discussed above are some of the flaws of the NPE, one would have expected that a re-
sponsive government would have risen to the challenge of revising the document and more impor-
tantly seeing to the implementation of the language policies therein. Meanwhile, in Harare Declaration
of 1997, African leaders were challenged to come up with realistic language policies for their respec-
tive countries:
(a) All African language Policies should be those that enhance the chances of attaining the vision
of Africa […]
(b) Each country should produce a clear Language Policy Document, within which every lan-
guage spoken in the country can find its place.
(c) Guidelines for policy formulation should be sanctioned by legislative action.
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ISSN 1327-774X
(d) Every country's policy framework should be flexible enough to allow each community to use
its language side-by-side with other languages while integrating with the wider society, within an
empowering language policy that caters for communication at local, regional and international
levels.
(e) A language policy-formulating and monitoring institution/body should be established in each
country.7
But this challenge has not been taken up by the Nigerian government. Explaining one of the probable
reasons for this seeming inaction, Adegbija (2004, p.34) says:
Political instability has been a principal impediment to the implementation of language policy in
Nigeria. Previously agreed policies are often abandoned by new regimes and implementation is
truncated. There is policy fluctuation, reinterpretation and misinterpretation and ad hoc and arbi-
trary policy initiatives.
In addition to the problem of political instability in Nigeria, Nigerian government has focused on teach-
ing of science and technology to the neglect of language education. In this regard, Onukaogu (2001,
p.12) notes that: ‘[…] the impression created by Nigerian educated planners immediately after inde-
pendence was that everything must be done to enhance science, mathematics and technology in Ni-
geria.’ In consequence, at the secondary school level, students are encouraged to study science
based courses and such students are considered the gifted ones on whose hands the development of
the nation lies. At the higher institution, admission quota for courses in science and technology is
higher than that of any other course, all in a bid to achieve technological breakthrough, forgetting that
a nation whose cultural values are not given a pride of place in its development efforts can hardly
compete with other nations. This is because cultural values in themselves are an identity-defining tool
that would project unique technological advancements that the world could celebrate.
If government had not focused on the development of science and technology to the neglect of devel-
oping language education, it would not have been the case that in 2006 which was proclaimed as the
Year of African Languages by the African Union, the National Institute for Nigerian Languages was
under threat of being scrapped. This move by the government of Nigeria was totally at variance with
the spirit behind the promotion of the African languages. Thus, while there was plan to renew com-
mitment to developing African languages at the continental level, it is ironic that a major institution in-
strumental to realising that goal was under threat of being scrapped in Nigeria.
Up to now, we have been able to discuss the problems militating against effective teaching/learning of
Nigeria’s local languages, as they pertain to the NPE. It is pertinent, at this juncture, to focus attention
on a major issue pivotal to the survival of endangered languages, which no doubt has been a causa-
tive factor for the poor recognition given to Africa’s local languages.
Language Utility: A Prerequisite for Language Revitalisa-
tion
To enhance the status of endangered Nigeria’s local languages, they need to be appreciated in terms
of assigning them functions in more domains of life. This is because language thrives when it serves
primarily as a means of communication in a given society. As a matter of fact, Idolor’s (2002, p.2) ar-
gument that “No phenomenon void of utility survives in a society […]’ holds good for urgently address-
ing the linguistic situation in Africa at present. To this end, we now focus on three major domains of
Nigeria’s national life where the indigenous languages can be harnessed for national development.
Political Communication
Nigeria is a nation with a fledgling democracy and thus requires mobilising the people for participatory
democracy, using local languages. There is no doubt that the language of government in Nigeria is
English but the local languages can also be employed to play complementary roles in political proc-
esses. For instance, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has provision for the
conduct of the businesses of the National Assembly in one of the three major languages and the State
Houses of Assembly in the dominant language of the state. It is, however, regrettable that since this
constitutional provision has been made, it is only Ogun and Anambra that have reportedly introduced
a weekly use of Yoruba and Igbo respectively in the conduct of their businesses. Even though their
trail-blazing effort is commendable, the restriction to a particular day in a whole week is not encourag-
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URL: www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/
ISSN 1327-774X
ing at all. More worrisome is the position of the legislators of the Lagos State House of Assembly who
rejected the proposal of using Yoruba for their proceedings on the grounds that Lagos is metropolitan
city and that Yoruba will trivialise the serious business of legislating.
It is not out of place if Nigeria’s democracy is fashioned in such a way that it gives room for the propa-
gation of indigenous values. In such a situation, we could de-emphasise the use of English by giving
room for people who can read and write in their indigenous languages or one of the major Nigerian
languages to be qualified to contest for elective positions. In fact, we have to note that the bane of the
current democratic practice in Nigeria is the undue emphasis on paper qualification. This is jeopardis-
ing the polity in the sense that some political aspirants have had to resort to certificate forgery and
when eventually they get elected into offices, they are linguistically incapacitated because of lack of
competence in English. More often than not, they are cut off from lending their voice to major deci-
sions on crucial issues and all they do is to observe, applaud others and get fat allowances and sal-
ary, all in the name of ‘misrepresenting’ their constituencies. It does not mean that such political office
holders are bereft of ideas about what governance entails or how to tackle pressing social issues but
the problem is that they cannot relate their experiences in an alien tongue.
We find out that even local government councils in linguistically homogeneous communities, which are
directly responsible to the grassroots people, keep their subjects in the dark with the adoption of Eng-
lish as the language of administration. This has created a gulf between the government and the peo-
ple. Mohochi posits:
Whereas horizontal communication is smooth (among the elite in former colonial languages and
the masses in local languages), it is the missing vertical communication (between the leaders
and the rest of the population) that needs to be improved in order to attain increased participation
of the masses in Africa’s development strives.8
With regard to government policies and programmes which should directly impact on people’s lives, it
is regrettable that they are packaged in English, circulated among the elite without involving and af-
fecting the grassroots people. For instance, some governments have poverty alleviation scheme for
rural dwellers and yet English is the dominant language of communication. How then do the rural
dwellers benefit maximally from it? On the use of local languages in realising the set objectives of
poverty alleviation programmes, Bamgbose (2006, p.30) posits:
Information on the programmes should not only be in the languages that people understand, the
various projects offered to alleviate poverty should be capable of being pursued through the me-
dium of our indigenous languages. Existing practices in crafts, trade, agriculture, local industries,
etc. should be the basis of poverty alleviation intervention rather than super-imposed Western
oriented practices, which inevitably have to be transmitted in English.
It is interesting that the poverty alleviation agencies of government and the National Orientation
Agency are vital spheres of life where experts in indigenous languages can be gainfully employed to
sell government programmes and activities to the people.
Health Care
Of all facets of national life, the health sector is about the most sensitive in that any communication
breakdown can spell disaster for the people. Information needs to be disseminated from time to time
to eradicate ignorance. To achieve this objective, indigenous languages need to be employed to dis-
seminate health tips. Although there have been renewed efforts in using Nigerian languages in health
campaigns, there could be tremendous improvement on what has been achieved so far. Thus, the
present discourse calls attention to how HIV/AIDS awareness campaign and the activities of pharma-
ceutical companies could empower local languages.
HIV/AIDS messages are about the most trumpeted of health issues in Nigeria today. There is a na-
tional body responsible for sensitizing the people on the scourge. It is called the National Action
Committee on AIDS (NACA) with its state outlet, State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA) and the
local outlet, Local Action Committee on AIDS (LACA). Apart from these government-controlled agen-
cies, there are numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are devoted to transmitting
HIV/AIDS campaigns. But the major challenge has been how effective their awareness campaigns
have been in view of the predominant use of English. As in other spheres of Nigeria’s national life,
English has displaced the indigenous languages in the awareness campaign drive of these agencies.
There are so many rural dwellers waiting to be informed in their local languages about the prevention,
control and management of the scourge. This is why the Program of African Studies ‘Executive Sum-
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mary of HIV/AIDS Prevention in Nigerian Communities’ challenges, ‘Uneducated rural population and
minority communities should not be overlooked when prevention messages are designed. Sixty-five
per cent of Nigerians live in rural areas and are not reached by current prevention campaigns’9.
Thus, the action committees on HIV/AIDS at the national, state and local levels could find gainful em-
ployment for health workers who are knowledgeable in the local languages of certain target communi-
ties. This will, on the one hand, ensure that the members of the target communities have access to
accurate information and, on the other hand, prove a point that it is not only competence in English
that guarantees access to well-paid jobs; knowledge of indigenous languages can as well brighten
one’s job prospect, as competence only in English in this circumstance amounts to outright disadvan-
tage. In fact, the NGOs could aim at recruiting speakers of indigenous languages as extension work-
ers to penetrate the rural communities where people are still ignorant of the scourge.
With regard to the activities of pharmaceutical companies, the present researcher has observed that
the use of local languages to reach the ordinary people is a far cry from what should be expected in a
linguistically heterogeneous society like Nigeria. Apart from the information disseminated to patients
by physicians at the point of prescribing drugs for them, patients encounter a lot of medical discourses
that should provide them relevant information that they themselves should be able to digest. Such dis-
courses include literature on the packs of drugs, or literature leaflets inside packs, and posters or
stickers introducing new brands of drugs. But the unfortunate situation is that such material is pro-
duced mainly in the medium of English. The use of English in this situation excludes the larger per-
centage of the population who do not use English. Although dispensers at pharmaceutical stores give
information on the administration of drugs bought over the counter, the buyers’ ability to retain such
information is sometimes suspected. So, it is reasonable that consumers have access to the needed
information in the language they understand.
Consequently, pharmaceutical companies especially the ones based in Nigeria as part of their corpo-
rate social responsibility owe the people the obligation of communicating with them in local languages.
Thus, transcribing the material in question to the languages of the country that are already committed
to writing and dispensing the drugs to the target communities will go a long way to meet both the
communicative and health needs of the people. To achieve this objective, experts in local languages
could be employed to serve in different capacities, as the companies may require.
Banking Sector
Almost all banking institutions in Nigeria today carry out their transactions in the medium of English.
Those who have language power are, therefore, those who have economic power, while those that
have no language power end up being disempowered financially. For instance, during the recapitalisa-
tion of banks in Nigeria in 2005, most banks had to go to the open market to sell shares to meet the
25 billion naira capital base benchmark for each bank. Consequently, banks in Nigeria embarked on
aggressive advertisements, trying to sway the people that investing in their own shares would yield the
most of profits in the long run. While pages of newspapers and magazines, and billboards were awash
with advertisements and the air wave both on radio and television was rent with jingles in English, the
ones in the local languages could be counted at one’s fingertips. Contributing to national economy in
this sense seems targeted only at a minority section of the people who use English, for it is assumed
that the rural dwellers do not have much to offer since they do not use the language that matters. The
polarity created in this situation should not have been if majority of the citizenry could have access to
financial information in their respective indigenous languages thereby creating the avenue for them to
contribute to national development and to empower them too financially.
To reach the majority of the Nigerian people who do not use the English language but will have trans-
actions to carry out in banks either for their children, wards, or even with business partners, banking
institutions in Nigeria could have certain sections where transactions in local languages take place. In
fact, the present writer cannot but sympathise with some customers who sometimes get frustrated in
the banking hall when the information they require is not readily available in the language they under-
stand well. To increase their efficiency and to penetrate the teeming population of the people who do
not use the English language, financial institutions as part of their corporate social responsibility need
to employ workers whose job requires that they be competent in the dominant indigenous language of
the immediate community. In fact, the services of the Customer Care Unit of most banks could im-
prove considerably if they are directed by employees competent in the use of indigenous languages. If
these and other strategies are employed towards empowering the local languages, people will come
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Issue 27
The International Journal of Language Society and Culture
Editors: Thao Lê and Quynh Lê
URL: www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/
ISSN 1327-774X
to appreciate the fact that teaching/learning their indigenous languages could open doors of increased
participation in national development and personal advancement for them.
Conclusion
This study has so far underscored the fact that in order to address the problem of teaching and learn-
ing Nigerian languages, there is need to appraise their utilitarian value not only for individual ad-
vancement but also for the general development of the country. The linguistic situation in Africa at
present is such that education in an African language does not ensure social mobility and better socio-
economic life. And until we realise that our linguistic diversity is a goldmine for meaningful develop-
ment, we will continue to bow under the hegemony of English. To empower local languages, it is not
enough to prescribe teaching/learning them in the school curriculum. We need to come up with
workable language policies that appreciate the multilingual nature of our communities and give due
recognition to the potential of every language to contribute to national development. According to
Bamgbose (1998, p.6), in this kind of arrangement, ‘[…] all languages will have an appropriate role in
a comprehensive language policy, but these roles need not be identical’. This has been called ‘egali-
tarian multilingualism’, which according to Sole i Carmardons (1997) quoted by Emenanjo (2002, p.5),
provides for ‘balanced relationships among languages (and) must be based upon equality and recip-
rocity of the linguistic communities and of the speakers’. When this utilitarian dimension to teach-
ing/learning the local languages is given a pride of place in a comprehensive language policy, then
people will be favourably disposed to learning their indigenous languages.
Notes
1. Cited from UNESCO Press Release on the International Mother Language Day, ‘Linguistic Di-
versity: 3,000 Languages in Danger’, [www document] URL:
http://www.unesco.org/education/imld_2002/press.shtml p.2
2. Cited from The International Development Research Centre, ‘Chapter 1. Policy Contexts in Af-
rica: Issues, Problems and Constraints’, [www document] URL: http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-
31086-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html p.1
3. Cited from The Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, [www document]
URL: http://www.queensu.ca/snid/asmara.htm p.1
4. Cited from Mohochi, S. (n.d), ‘Turning to Indigenous Languages for Increased Citizen Partici-
pation in the African Development Process’, [www document] URL:
http://www.codesria.org/Links/conferences/general_assembly11/papers/mohochi.pdf p.5
5. Cited from BBC News (2006), ‘Are Indigenous Languages Dead?’ [www document] URL:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4536450.stm p.2
6. Cited from The Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, [www document]
URL: http://www.queensu.ca/snid/asmara.htm p.1
7. Cited from Harare Declaration (1997), [www document] URL:
http://www.bisharat.net/Documents/Harare97Declaration.htm p.2
8. Cited from Cited from Mohochi, S. (n.d), ‘Turning to Indigenous Languages for Increased
Citizen Participation in the African Development Process’, [www document] URL:
http://www.codesria.org/Links/conferences/general_assembly11/papers/mohochi.pdf p.7
9. Cited from Program of African Studies (2005), ‘HIV/AIDS Prevention in Nigerian Communities:
Strengthening Institutional Responses’, [www document] URL:
http://www.northwestern.edu/african.html p.9
Acknowledgements
This paper was first presented at the 1st International Online Language Conference (IOLC) 2008, 15-
16 September 2008. Therefore, I appreciate the organisers of the conference for the opportunity given
me to have presented the paper. To the other participants at the conference, I am most grateful for
© LSC-2009 Page 8
Issue 27
The International Journal of Language Society and Culture
Editors: Thao Lê and Quynh Lê
URL: www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/
ISSN 1327-774X
having benefited immensely from your presentations and your comments which have helped me to
improve on the quality of this paper.
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Editors: Thao Lê and Quynh Lê
URL: www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/tle/JOURNAL/
ISSN 1327-774X
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Globalization and its Challenges to National Cultures and Values: A Perspective from Sub-Saharan Africa', (Paper Presented at the International Roundtable on the Challenges of Globalization
  • M O Maduagwu
Maduagwu, M. O. (1999). 'Globalization and its Challenges to National Cultures and Values: A Perspective from Sub-Saharan Africa', (Paper Presented at the International Roundtable on the Challenges of Globalization, University of Munich, 18-19 March 1999) pp. 1-14. Retrieved 10th May 2008 from http://www.i-p-o.org/Maduagwu.htm