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How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani - Culture - Nairaland

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How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by bigfrancis21: 1:06pm On Jan 03, 2017
In our series of letters from African journalists, Nigerian novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani recalls how she was banned from speaking her mother tongue.
My parents forbade my local language, Igbo, from being spoken in our home when I was a child.
Unlike the majority of their contemporaries in our hometown of Umuahia in south-east Nigeria, my parents chose to speak only English to their children.
They also conversed between themselves in English, even though they had each grown up speaking Igbo with their own parents and siblings.
On the rare occasion my father and mother spoke Igbo with each other, it was a clear sign that they were conducting a conversation in which the children were not expected to participate.
Guests in our home adjusted to the fact that we were an English-speaking household and conformed, with varying degrees of success.


Our live-in domestic staff were equally compelled to speak English.
Many arrived from their villages unable to utter a single word of the foreign tongue, but as the weeks rolled by, they began to string complete sentences together with less contortion of their faces.



Over the years, I endured people teasing my parents, usually behind their backs, for this decision. "They are trying to be like white people," they said.
Similar accusations were levelled against Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's former prime minister, when he replaced Chinese with English as the official medium of instruction in schools.
But, as he explained in his autobiography, From Third World to First, "With English, no race would have an advantage.... English as our working language has... given us a competitive advantage because it is the international language of business and diplomacy, of science and technology."

My parents seemed to share these convictions.
Each time it was my turn to stand and read to my primary school class from our recommended Igbo textbook, the pupils burst into a giggling session at my placement of the wrong tones on the wrong syllables.
Language tests
Again and again, the teacher made me repeat the words. Each time, the class's laughter was louder. My off-key pronunciations tickled them no end.
But while the other pupils were busy giggling away, I went on to get the highest scores in Igbo tests. Always.
Because the tests were written - they did not require the ability to pronounce words accurately.
The rest of the class may have been relaxed in their knowledge of the language and so treated it casually, probably the same way a reckless Briton might treat his or her study of English.
I, on the other hand, considered Igbo foreign and so approached the subject studiously.
Igbo banned in school
I also read Igbo literature and watched Igbo programmes on TV. My favourite was a comedy titled Mmadu O Bu Ewu?, which featured a live goat dressed in human clothing.
Speaking Igbo was also banned in the boarding school I attended.



The Federal Government Girls' College, Owerri, was one of the country's "Unity Schools" founded after the Nigerian civil war to promote integration among ethnic groups and to discourage divisions and tribalism.
Local languages were part of the curriculum, but speaking them beyond the classroom was a punishable offence.
And so, under the tutelage of some of the country's best teachers, I continued my ardent study of Igbo, despite not having the opportunity to practise how to speak.
By the conclusion of secondary school, I was confident enough in my knowledge of Igbo to register it as one of my subjects of choice for the university entrance exam.
Everyone thought I was insane. Taking a major local language exam as a prerequisite for university admission was not child's play.
Results for language exam
I was treading where expert speakers themselves feared to tread. I still meet many Igbos who have been speaking the language all their lives, but are unable to read and write it fluently.
On the appointed day, presided over by supervisors in premises outside my school, less than six of us sat in the large hall, never mind that the exams were taking place in an Igbo town.
When the results were eventually released, my score turned out to be good enough, when combined with my scores in the two other subjects I chose, to land me a place to study psychology at Nigeria's prestigious University of Ibadan.

In Ibadan, south-west Nigeria, home to the Yoruba ethnic group, I was free to speak Igbo at last.
Far away from home, from the giggling voices, and from those who did not allow me to speak Igbo, I was finally free to express the words that had been bottled up inside my head for so many years - the words I had heard people in the market speak, read in books and heard on TV.
Speaking Igbo in university was particularly essential if I was to socialise comfortably with the Igbo community there, as most of the "foreigners" in the Yoruba-dominated school considered it essential to be seen talking their language. "Suo n'asusu anyi! Speak in our language!" they often admonished when I launched a conversation with them in English.
"Don't you hear the Yorubas speaking their own language?" Thus, in a strange land, I finally became fluent in a mother tongue that I had hardly uttered my entire life.
An English-Igbo man
Today, few people can tell from my pronunciations that I grew up not speaking Igbo.
"Your wit is even sharper in Igbo than in English," my mother insists.
These days, she enjoys it when I gossip with her in Igbo, although I still can't get myself to speak the local tongue with my father who, despite being a typical Igbo man in many ways and a titled chief, has never regretted choosing English over Igbo.
And, for some strange reason, my eloquence in Igbo often regresses whenever I am in the presence of anyone who was privy to my days as a non-speaker.
Maybe it is the memory of their mockery that ties up my tongue.
Eager to show off my hard-earned skill, whenever I come across publishers of African publications, especially those who make a big deal about propagating "African culture", I ask if I can write something for them in Igbo. They always say no.
Despite all the "promoting our culture" fanfare, they understand that local language submissions could limit the reach of their publications.
Now comes the BBC with its announcement that it will broadcast in Igbo, as part of the World Service's biggest expansion since the 1940s. At last, the next generation of Igbo experts have an international platform on which to display their skills.


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38069481

24 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by swazpedro(m): 1:13pm On Jan 03, 2017
if only i could spare more than a minute to read i would have understood what u wrote

11 Likes 2 Shares

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by musicwriter(m): 2:13pm On Jan 03, 2017
I salute her zeal to speak Igbo.
Education means being able to speak your own language before learning to speak any other. Its very unfortunate, brainwashing education has reduced us to thinking the opposite is the case.

"With English, no race would have an advantage.... English as our working language has... given us a competitive advantage because it is the international language of business and diplomacy, of science and technology"

And the above statement by Lee K. Yew is very wrong!. English alone did not give Singapore a competitive edge, but their policy on immigration which source the best brain from English speaking countries. I' am sure he will soon regret switching learning to English as China take over the US as the world power. Even US schools are now offering Chinese and Mandarin classes.

Secondly, English is not the language of science or technology. That statement even sound childish to me. Any language could be the language of science or technology. Japan is more scientifically and technologically advanced than Britain!. Russia was the first country to send man to space!!. What nonsense is he talking?!!.

Thank God I didn't buy his book "the Singapore story". I nearly bought that book sometime last year, but I can see its a complete trash.

32 Likes 4 Shares

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by ohereiyi: 5:59pm On Jan 06, 2017
Dalu nwa nnem. Keep Igbo Language alive.

29 Likes 2 Shares

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Afam4eva(m): 8:34pm On Jan 06, 2017
It's a common practice among Igbo parents to encourage their wards to pick English over Igbo. Not just pick, but to discard the Igbo language altogether. For some it's more subtle while for others, there's a concerted effort to make sure Igbo or any form of vernacular is not spoken in the home. For those kind of parents, i say, shame to them.

70 Likes 3 Shares

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by warrah(m): 10:39am On Jan 11, 2017
Seeing Igbo parents forcing their wards to speak English every time, it reeks of inferiority complex.

Forcing a child to speak a foreign language and teaching him or her to see speaking the indegineous language as being local or uneducated is very bad, the domino effect of this will be reverberating.


In 50years, our indigenous languages might go extinct


Tufiakwa, God forbid

May God preserve the Igbo language till eternity

28 Likes 1 Share

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Ishilove: 3:06pm On Jan 11, 2017
One of my former wards once confessed to me how her father banned his kids from speaking Yoruba language at home and in school. When I asked why he did such an unthinkable thing, she could not explain.

I on my part forced myself to start learning my native tongue when I was 12. Before then I could not understand it well even though my parents spoke it at home. Even at that age, I sensed that it is imperative that I mastered my native tongues for reasons that wasn't made clear until many years later.

Our language is part of our heritage. Relegating it in favour of a foreign one is the height of mental slavery and inferiority complex.

40 Likes 5 Shares

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by InyinyaAgbaOku(m): 1:36pm On Jan 14, 2017
Ishilove:
One of my former wards once confessed to me how her father banned his kids from speaking Yoruba language at home and in school. When I asked why he did such an unthinkable thing, she could not explain.

I on my part forced myself to start learning my native tongue when I was 12. Before then I could not understand it well even though my parents spoke it at home. Even at that age, I sensed that it is imperative that I mastered my native tongues for reasons that wasn't made clear until many years later.

Our language is part of our heritage. Relegating it in favour of a foreign one is the height of mental slavery and inferiority complex.

What's your language?

3 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Afam4eva(m): 1:38pm On Jan 14, 2017
InyinyaAgbaOku:


What's your language?
Lol grin I saw this coming...Una no dey tire? Ishilove, pls say it's Igbo grin

13 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by InyinyaAgbaOku(m): 4:50pm On Jan 14, 2017
Afam4eva:

Lol grin I saw this coming...Una no dey tire? Ishilove, pls say it's Igbo grin
Why ask her to say she is Igbo? And what did you see coming? And why?

I got confused cos she was talking of Yoruba before, then she switched to 'my native language ' ,that's why I was inquisitive.

3 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by bigfrancis21: 6:28pm On Jan 14, 2017
InyinyaAgbaOku:


What's your language?

Please don't start this again. That's not the purpose of this thread.

3 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Ishilove: 7:40pm On Jan 14, 2017
InyinyaAgbaOku:


What's your language?
Does it really matter? undecided

bigfrancis21:


Please don't start this again. That's not the purpose of this thread.
Hi dear.
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Ishilove: 7:42pm On Jan 14, 2017
Afam4eva:

Lol grin I saw this coming...Una no dey tire? Ishilove, pls say it's Igbo grin
It's not Igbo o. It is Igbira and my native name is Oiza grin

8 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by bigfrancis21: 8:03pm On Jan 14, 2017
Ishilove:

Does it really matter? undecided


Hi dear. Please can you add the source link to the post?

I'm good. It's from bbc. Here's the link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38069481
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Ishilove: 8:07pm On Jan 14, 2017
bigfrancis21:


I'm good.
It's been quite a while smiley

I know the author, by the way. Her debut novel, 'I do not come to you by chance' is about 419 and it's a classic! cheesy

Esere826's wonderful gift to me smiley
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by bigfrancis21: 8:14pm On Jan 14, 2017
Ishilove:

It's been quite a while smiley

Please add the link to the original post.

I know the author, by the way. Her debut novel, 'I do not come to you by chance' is about 419 and it's a classic! cheesy

Esere826's wonderful gift to me smiley

Ya it's been a while. Busy life in America got me. cry

I've added the link to the post now. Thought I did before.
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by InyinyaAgbaOku(m): 8:41pm On Jan 14, 2017
bigfrancis21:


Please don't start this again. That's not the purpose of this thread.

What's wrong with everyone concerning my question?
Is her language that sacred?

8 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by InyinyaAgbaOku(m): 8:44pm On Jan 14, 2017
Ishilove:

Does it really matter?
SMH

2 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Ishilove: 8:57pm On Jan 14, 2017
bigfrancis21:


Ya it's been a while. Busy life in America got me. cry

I've added the link to the post now. Thought I did before.
Busy life in Nigeria got me too sad

7 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by jeeqaa7(m): 8:59pm On Jan 14, 2017
Ashi!"
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by cstr55: 8:59pm On Jan 14, 2017
The igbo language is going to be the first language to die off in that country.
Nitwits.

3 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by wandeay: 8:59pm On Jan 14, 2017
Pple still dey speak dat language?
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by BrutalJab: 8:59pm On Jan 14, 2017
That's bad.
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by kings09(m): 9:02pm On Jan 14, 2017
So wat shld we do abt it
Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by steppin: 9:08pm On Jan 14, 2017
Those parents who forbade their children from speaking their local language are silly.
Most of them do it because they want their kids to speak English, without accent from their local language.
But it's silly, cos Indians, Germans, the Chinese use their languages in teaching in their schools and they all speak English with accents.
What's so special about speaking English without accents? Some Indian actors and actresses are millionaires and yet they speak with a heavy accent.
Without your local language, it'd be hard for someone to run for an elective post in Nigeria.
So, it doesn't make sense.

8 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by afroxyz: 9:09pm On Jan 14, 2017
This colonial stooge would stop at nothing to bring her culture and country down. Just read her previous articles. Mtsheww

2 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Ishilove: 9:13pm On Jan 14, 2017
afroxyz:
This colonial stooge would stop at nothing to bring her culture and country down. Just read her previous articles. Mtsheww
I think she is very honest in her articles. She says things as they really are.

Or would you prefer her to sugar coat the truth?

2 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by kettle84(m): 9:16pm On Jan 14, 2017
Ishilove:

It's been quite a while smiley

I know the author, by the way. Her debut novel, 'I do not come to you by chance' is about 419 and it's a classic! cheesy

Esere826's wonderful gift to me smiley
Igbira girl

3 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by Lilimax(f): 9:22pm On Jan 14, 2017
Kpom kpom n'ebea! O gini na-afio biko? embarassed

4 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by MichaelSokoto(m): 9:24pm On Jan 14, 2017
Mr & Mrs Nwaubani, why nah?

why deny dis nwafor swiit gyal her right to alaigbo tongue nah? undecided

buh in d meantime... cool

2 Likes

Re: How I Was Banned From Speaking Igbo - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani by freecocoa(f): 9:25pm On Jan 14, 2017
No need to prioritise any,people(especially kids) can speak more than one languages fluently.

2 Likes

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