The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, on Thursday urged Nigerian youths to speak their mother tongue in order to revive the endangered languages in the country.
Muhammed, who was represented by the Director, Human Resources, Mr Adebola Kayode in the ministry, gave the advice in Abuja at the National Consultative Forum on Nigerian Endangered Languages.
The theme of the forum is “Creating Strategies for Preventing Languages Loss in Nigeria’’.
He said that western education and globalisation with their attendant negative effects on African languages and their disappearance, particularly in Nigeria had set Africa back significantly in linguistics.
“It is no longer news that nearly 80 per cent of youths, especially those between two and 18 years, find it difficult to speak their mother tongue fluently or do not speak them at all,’’ he said.’
According to him, language as a means of communication holds the key to the processes that lead to national and global integration and harmony among peoples.
Muhammed added that language remained the bedrock of development through which cultures and civilisations expressed their world views.
“Therefore, the erosion or loss of any language can be likened to the burning down of a library.
“Language as a communication tool embodies the norms, values, traditions, ethos and the artistic creation of the people thus, shaping their cultures and civilisations.’’
He said that language imperialism which caused the abandonment of cultures and traditions should be discouraged through international legislations and proclamations by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
Prof. Andrew Haruna, the General-Secretary, Linguistic Association of Nigeria, also urged Nigerians to speak local languages in order “to stay alive’’.
Haruna said that though record revealed that Nigeria had over 500 languages, figure had been declining due to lack of usage.
“Some languages were killed across the world through legislation and inferiority complex by some people who deliberately abandoned their local languages,’’ he said.
Dr Chinyere Nwagbara, the Director, Language Development Centre, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, urged parents to always speak their mother tongue to their children at homes.
Nwagbara said conversation of native languages at home would also help in reviving the endangered languages in the country.
She stressed the need for curriculum to teach languages in the schools, adding that it would also go a long way in encouraging Nigerian youths to write and speak the languages. (NAN)