I recently happened upon Afrofeminist Diaspora blogger Spectra Speaks and resonated with her article called, “To Nigerians who don’t Speak Any Native Nigerian languages, And Their Bullies.” Of course I had to read, the title alone made me want to raise my hand and snap in agreement.
Here’s one part that spoke to me strongly:
‘People Like Me Want to Learn Our Languages; We Need Support, Not Criticism’
And here come the look on people’s faces when I explain why I haven’t been able to learn either of my parents’ native languages till now. They’re thinking, “She’s making excuses. If she really wanted to, she would have. She just doesn’t take pride in her culture.”
…Rather than reduce this conversation to cliche criticise of Africans who never learned their mother tongues, wouldn’t it be more productive – and in better service of African cultural preservation — to frame our conversations about language around solutions to the diminishing fluency of African languages i.e. what we could do to increase interest AND access to learning?
For real though! I’ve had family members and acquaintances straight up laugh, cut me off and essentially dismiss me when I speak Twi; Insulting me because it’s not good enough, then asking why it’s not good enough. I wrote of my experience in one of the first Tempo articles callled “Losing Our Languages”.
Spectra brings up a great point about there being a lack of African Language learning resources. It’s true. You’ll see French, Spanish, Mandarin, Portugese before you see Igbo, Twi, and Xhlosa in any bookstore. Our best bet is to learn Swahili ( Which is in fact on my bucket list). I’m curious if anyone knows of any language resources? Can we start something? Remember, we’re trying to move forward here! Can we challenge the presumed superiority of colonial languages by documenting and teaching one another our African ones?
Read Spectra’s “To Nigerins who don’t Speak Any Native Nigerian languages, And Their Bullies “ in full here.