International Mother Language Day – Do You Know That Nigerian Languages Are Going Extinct?

International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism.

The date represents 21st February 1952, when four young students were killed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, because of Bengali and Urdu language controversy.

Languages are the most powerful ways to preserve and develop culture and to promote it all across the world. Because of this unfortunate incident, International Mother Language Day is celebrated all over the world. However, it is a public holiday in Bangladesh.


UNESCO has been celebrating International Mother Language Day for nearly 20 years. They aim of preserv linguistic diversity and promote mother tongue-based multilingual education.

Progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education. There is growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling. There is also more commitment to its development in public life.

This year, UNESCO commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its bold statement that ‘no discrimination can be made on the basis of language’. It celebrates its translation into more than 500 languages as well.

International Mother Language Day
Do You Know That Nigerian Languages May Be Wiped Out In The Next 50 years!

Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. One language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.

Going by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) latest predictions, most Nigerian languages are under the dangling axe of extinction.

In other words, most of Nigerian languages may even be wiped out in the next fifty years if corrective steps are not taken.

In 2012, UNESCO warned that the number of speakers of these indigenous languages is reducing daily, overwhelmed by the bulldozing influence of foreign languages, especially English and French.

Paraphrasing Olugboyega Adebanjo, lead translator at XML Language Services Limited, a language translation and preservation firm, Nigerians still speak in tongues, but no more in their mother tongues.

Due to globalisation and its aftereffects, many Yoruba adults and young ones detest their own language as if it is their common enemy, or a dreadful affliction that burdens them.

Most educated Nigerians  who are supposed to be the store house of their cultural heritage have reduced themselves to aliens in their own land – alien to their language, history and culture.

Is Your Mother Tongue Important To You?

The attitude of many Yoruba adults towards their culture is poor. As a result, their children cannot utter one word in their mother tongue because they have not learnt to value their language.

Nowadays, especially in homes of educated citizens, it is increasingly becoming the norm for children to have their first tongue in English, the language of Nigeria’s former colonisers.

The trend of sending children to private primary and secondary schools where pupils are not taught in any of Nigeria’s languages, but in English, thus subtly conditioning the children to value foreign language above their mother tongue is another reason why Nigerian Languages are dying slowly.

It is quite disturbing that in most schools, speaking your mother language during school hours is a punishable offence as it is ignorantly termed as vernacular.

Like the Yoruba, the number of speakers of Igbo language is fast thinning down. Apart from the pressure imposed by pidgin, which is a popular medium of communication among the teeming masses, the use of English has forced many native speakers of Igbo to water down the essence of the language through code-switching.

Fear Not, There Is Still Hope For The Future.

African parents have to start speaking in their mother tongue to their children at home and ensure that they start learning right from when they are born. We should promote our languages and encourage children to speak our own language.

It is not just in a bid to preserve culture, and promote it all over the world. Research has shown that Children who speak their local languages very well are known to be more proficient in other foreign languages. And they can communicate better. This has been proved to be true over the years.

It is because we have neglected our duty to train the children and show them how and where to go that we are in this mess we are in today.

We need to encourage children to use their mother languages to communicate about their families and culture.

Tell them a story or sing songs to them in their mother tongues. Encourage them to watch movies in their mother language.

Give your children a love of their mother tongue right from when they are young.

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