Tuesday, September 09, 2008


From your neighborhood bi-cultural 'ELDER'...

Odd title. But it fits the mood I am in right now. I have not written a blog entry in a while. It's like I am sitting silent as our world changes by the second. The political landscape has turned into a potential landslide and much to my chagrin, I have not churned out anything sensible. This writer's bloc is taking too long or may be life is truly beginning to take over. That aside, today I was just thinking about so many things and the one that stuck out for me is the fact that I am not fluent in another UN WORKING LANGUAGE.

In this day and age of global convergence, this fact is depressing. I actually tried to learn French but I am sure I have told you that story. F9. JSS 3 WAEC. I remember the whoopings I got from my late french teacher Mr Oyetunji, and Mrs Ojo just because I could not conjugate verbs in French. But my rebellion towards 'another man's' language (except for the English language) started in Primary 5 when I walked to my then headmistress's office with my Yoruba Exam paper filled with Zeros ( badly draw sad smiley faces) and several red markings, crying that I would not place in the top 15 of the class (my apologies for being one of the regular kids who knew their place was definitely not top 5 and never wasted time agonizing over that) and would she consider offering IGBO language so we could choose. I think in that year's end of term exam I may have influenced my friends to leave their exam papers blank in protest. I am not sure who else did but I know my fellow rebel, Enuka left her paper blank, my dad petitioned and the next semester there was an option to be exempted from Yoruba (really only because it was our final year and Yoruba was not offered in common entrance). I would use this form of protest (blank exam paper) later on after several attempts at trying to learn maths. But unfortunately for me, I paid for it later on in life. If not for the Holy Spirit that intervened and softened my dean's heart to my numerical learning challenges. I swear mathematics was like greek. Impossible to learn. But I digress.

My mother speaks Hausa fluently because she grew up in the North until the Civil War sent them packing. We used to marvel at the way she would engage the meat selling mallams at Sabo Market, our may-guard 'Ali the Kasali' (Kasali was a gate-man character from an NTA TV show) or even the Abokis who change dollars. Not one of us cared to learn it because back then we were like, 'whatever, that's the language of the oppressive ethnic group and the corrupt leaders in government, we'ld never need it cos we'ld never go to the north anyways'. So we brushed it aside. Big mistake. When I went along on that Sahara trip, my dumb ass discovered that Hausa is the most widely spoken language in West Africa. All the way into Mali. If someone had told me way back when I was still rocking 'Kotina' that I would go on that expedition, may be I would have made an effort to know more than just counting 1 to 10 in Hausa. Even that I don't even remember. But my new goal while I am still here in Nigeria (as you might recall my deadline is meant to be up this December but I have extended it to a 'yet-to-be-determined' date o. LOL. Please don't ask me why but it has a lot to do with my portion of the National Cake for which I am still mixing the flour and egg) I would try to get working knowledge or the Hausa language, improve my Yoruba and get better at my french.

Which brings us back to UN WORKING LANGUAGES, which include ARABIC, FRENCH, SPANISH, CHINESE/MANDARIN, ENGLISH and RUSSIAN. PORTUGUESE, ITALIAN, FARSI, URDU, SWAHILI are not but these are widely spoken languages in certain regions that having working knowledge of or ability to carry conversations in them can be useful. The BBC is one of a few international organizations that actually lists HAUSA as one of it's major broadcast language. Read more about the Top Ten languages HERE

So that I don't waste your time with gibberish. Let me go straight to my advice. Along with the language of your Father/mother (if you don't have one, for the purpose of driving my point home borrow your favorite neighbor's or friend's. A language that is, but I guess 'renting-a-parent' might work too). If your father/mother speaks only one language, trace your lineage until you hit a foreign language. Except you are from England or you just happen to be able to read this because you are 'exposed' or are one of the many whose ancestors relocated or were forced to the New World, chances are you will hit a Foreign language. Trust me, if you learn it, It could be the JACK POT in your life somewhere down the road. If you are a parent and you have young impressionable children, don't just teach them their own native tongue, teach them 2 more languages. Start them off in an ALL French/Spanish speaking creche or nursery school. Send them to language camp or summer school. If yo are an adult, attend language classes. There won't be any more pressure now that your grades don't depend on it. I think IF grades were not an issue I would KNOW french by now. Today's world is one where if you can't speak more than one language, preferably a UN WORKING LANGUAGE, you are under qualified. It's NO LONGER just enough to speak just IGBO or just YORUBA or your own native tongue. So now that you are armed with this little advice that I have been burdened with get out there and get MULTI-LINGUAL. It's never too late to start. WORD UP!!

Incase I am not convincing enough or you are one of those hard head who said 'pssh..what am I gonna do with a foreign language?" HERE is a list of opportunities you might be preventing yourself from taking advantage of (notice how my field is listed as #1. i'M SCREWED!! Where was google in my freshman year. LOL.)