Nigeria is blessed with 520 languages out of the 7,000 languages worldwide. It is a notable fact that languages are lost every five minutes which attests to the fact that more than 400 Nigerian languages are endangered.
Loss of language is not peculiar to Nigeria but without precautionary measures, the languages may be extinct in the next 50 years but in a bid to salvage the situation, the Ministry of Information and Culture organised a Consultative Forum on Endangered Indigenous Languages involving experts in the industry such as ethnographers, sociologists, and linguists.
In his address, the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that western education and globalisation, with its attendant effect on African languages, have set Africa back significantly in the area of linguists which he described as the cornerstone of every nations development.
He recalled that 80 per cent of Nigerians, especially those between the ages of 2 to 18 years, find it difficult to speak their mother tongue, stressing that language as a means of communication leads to national and global integration as well as harmony among the people. He revealed that the erosion of any language can be likened to the burning down of a library, noting that languages also embody the norms, values, traditions, ethos, and the artistic creations of the people thereby shaping their cultures and civilisations.
The minister, who was represented by the director of Administration, Mr Adebola Kayode, further advocated for the rejection of language imperialism through international legislations and proclamations by the UNESCO, adding that the colonisation of languages led to the abandonment of cultures and traditions.
According to him, “The Ministry of Information and Culture undertook an extensive research programme aimed at mapping and documenting clusters of language groups within the six geo-political zones for posterity. He admitted that the research result led to the publication of collated materials on some endangered Nigerian languages in 2009 titled ‘Pilot Survey on Nigerian Endangered Languages and Cultures.’”
Also speaking at the event, the director of Cultural Industries and Heritage, Mr Seyi Womiloju, said that Nigeria is blessed with huge and richly diverse cultural heritage and harbours a multi and ethno-linguistic people in the globe. He charged the participants on the need to revitalise and safeguard the languages, noting that Nigerian languages are significant communication tools inherited from the ancestors.
In his presentation, a Professor of Linguistics, Department of Linguistic and Nigerian Languages, University of Jos, Professor Andrew Haruna, revealed that there is a serious desertification and deforestation in the linguistic landscape, stressing that there was a need to save the remaining minority languages from extinction.