A Random Post about Language

So one of my pet peeves is the fact that many Nigerians (and especially Igbo Nigerians) refuse to speak their language in public. Being that I attend school in America, this baffles me even more. The ability to speak a language other than English is invaluable in this country because it gives you privacy no matter where you are. At my school most of the Nigerians are Igbo and not only are they Igbo they all seem to be from Anambra (myself included). Imagine the conversations we could have! The lively in-jokes, the nostalgic memory sessions, etc. Yet every single one of my friends absolutely REFUSES to speak Igbo to me.

To understand the extend of the ridiculousness, whenever we’re all sitting together and gisting, I invariably get told “hush! Your voice is too loud, those oyinbos on the other table will hear you!”

Do you know why this statement annoys me? Because if everyone would just agree to gist in Igbo then I wouldn’t have to worry about the oyinbos down the road hearing me.

It absolutely baffles me. The Japanese students all speak Japanese to each other. They don’t care if no one else around understands them. They are confident in speaking their native language because they know that if anyone wants to be included in their conversation, they can simply switch to English. Most of them have been using kids English apps (or 子供 英語 アプリ) since they were little so they are able to speak fluently and won’t let anyone put them down for their talent. Same thing with the French students who are even more adept at ignoring any nearby English students, same thing with the Germans and the Arabs.

Only the Nigerians insist on speaking English, whispering like witches for privacy when they could all have been at ease.

Once when we were waiting in line for something and I saw my friend and went up to him and said “Kedu? I ma ebe anyi ga no?” – I was saying hi and asking if he knew where we were all going to sit – He became very embarrassed and whispered angrily to me not to speak “that bush language to him in front of these white girls”.

I was like O_o.

Other excuses I’ve gotten from my friends are that they are not fluent in Igbo. You know what I told them? I said ‘ how will you ever become fluent if you don’t practice? If we all spoke Igbo to each other, surely after a month our fluency would have jumped up a couple of notches”

But no, Igbo is bush, Igbo will make white people think less of them, Igbo will make black americans think less of them, they don’t want to be associated with ‘that’… what does ‘that’ even mean?

So I’m stuck with 8 Igbo people that I can’t speak Igbo to. Go figure.

You know what really annoys me though? You will find Igbo people trying to suck up to these same Japanese, French, and German students, proudly speaking to them in their broken French while the French kids look on in amusement. I have never encountered a single international student that was even remotely interested in learning a word of any of the African students’ languages, yet all the African students can’t wait to show off the five new words they’ve learned in Chinese or whatever while the real Chinese students laugh at them.

Yeah I know, this is a very badly written rant but I’m high on Halloween candy so whatever.

On the flip side btw, I’ve noticed that watching so much Inuyasha is making me understand Japanese whether I’m willing to or not.

I woke up yesterday and realised that I somehow magically and miraculously am beginning to understand what is happening in the cartoon even when I’m not looking at the screen.

So far I understand the following words

Neko – Cat
Inu – Dog
Ano – But
Daijobu? – Are you alright
Kaze – Wind
Kaze no Kizu – Wind Scar
Arigato – Thank you
Sayo nara – Good bye
Aniki – Big Brother
Otouto -Little Brother
Chichi-ue – Honored Father
Haha-ue – Honored Mother
Baka – Fool/Idiot
Baka na koto o – Don’t say foolish things
Otou-san – Daddy
Okaa-san – Mommy
Onee-we/san – Sister
Fuujin no Mai – Dance of the Dragon
Bakuryuha – Backlash Wave
Kaza Na – Wind Tunnel
Houshi – Monk
Taijiya – Demon slayer
Youkai – Demon
Hanyou – Half Demon
Ningen – Human being
Saimyosho – Naraku’s poison insects
Sugoi – Amazing
Katana – Sword
Osuwari – Sit
And many more. It is very strange. It’s like watching this series suddenly filled my head with all this extra information.

Anyway that’s my random language post. Very disorganized but hey, Kit Kat makes you high.

There are 17 comments

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  1. Sankofa

    Great post! I think I agree with almost everything you said. I’m not Nigerian and although the Ghanaians I know aren’t as bad to the extent of the people you described, they can be pretty terrible at times. I don’t understand why we continually diminish our own cultures whilst legitimising others. My only quibble is that I think it’s rude to speak in another language if there’s somebody in the conversation who doesn’t understand. However, whether in public or private, if everybody understands twi, ga, yuroba, hausa or whatever, I don’t see the problem in speaking it. What’s so “bush” about our beautiful African languages?

  2. eccentricyoruba

    Stop blaming Kit Kat jare! You always write well ^_^

    And you know more Japanese than me now! I had no idea what ‘sit down’ means! At this rate, you may want to start learning Japanese. Everyone who watches anime with subs ends up knowing a few words, the only problem is that no one actually talks the way anime characters do.

    I feel you with the Igbo students, it really makes my blood boil when I see Nigerians acting like this. Talk about colonial mentality! The sucking up thing kind of annoys me and I have learnt not to broadcast the languages I speak. Like I speak to the Japanese people here in French.

    P.S depending on how it is pronounced ‘Ano’ can also mean ‘that’ as in ‘ano neko’ is ‘that cat (over there)’.

  3. leggy

    lol…such a pity.where i am everyone speaks their language and tries to outdo each other.even our white friends are always trying to say ‘odiegwu’ or ‘odikwa very serious’ just to belong.lol.
    wow, i really am fortunate with the kind of nigerians ive encountered and im anambra too.
    the yorubas try to teach us their language or try to learn ours.its so much fun making a fool of our white friends.lol.

  4. mello-smooth.

    i keep on thinking how cool it would be to have a native language, even a freakin dialect! but i`m just regular black lol. i really dont see how embracing what you are is embarrassing to them. if anything, they`re lucky to have an understanding of their culture & where they come from. they really need to get over it because it isn`t that serious. & being so accepting of Japanese & French is crazy to me! i guess it`s just the way some of our culture is.

  5. Jade

    You have you to understand that most Nigerians here came from lagos or abuja or some big city were the only language they are really fluent in is english.They barely spoke their native languages when they were in Nigeria and it would be a stretch to expect them to speak them in America.
    But, I do agree with you, it is very tragic and its saddening to not be able to speak igbo. Ha maro na asusu igbo na tuuto (they dont know that igbp language is very sweet)……
    lemme help you elongate your Japanese dictionary:
    Arigato Gozymas: Thank you very
    Nan da yo: What the hell

  6. The Misses

    They may feel since they are in another country, they should speak that county’s language but u know black people always try to fit into other peoples cultures and languages because often times they are ashamed of their own.
    But like u said, other people don’t try to learn anything from blacks or deny a part of themselves to be like someone else. Hispanics don’t have any problem with speaking spanish no matter where they are.

  7. Sting

    You have some stuck up, ignorant friends to say the least. My igbo friend in med school wishes i can speak igbo so we can say whatever in front of pple. In lab today, we were speaking pidgin english in front of everyone else aka oyinbo. Wetin concern abgero with overload. If u know urself and are proud of who u r, such things don’t matter.

  8. Ladi

    Sooo, ture. I just re-echoed your post on facebook. I mean Russians and Chinese here are so proud of their bi and tri-lingualness that they rudely exclude everyone else on the table. Even African Americans speak their ‘Ebonics’ and ‘you is, have you saw, get my hair did’ on the table and we Nigerians will be busy trying to impress them by being discreet, faking accents and sounding like fools.

    I tried speaking pidgin to a Nigerian in the cafeteria and the very Igbotic dude kept answering me back with Yankee English maybe because he was surrounded by Akatas, I was beginning to feel foolish.

    I remember a white Kenyan who who be screaming swahili across campus with his East African buddies. Some times even White Africans/ Other black non-Nigerian Africans appear more patriotic.

  9. enigmaticone

    I have to agree with you here (shock horror!!! lol!!!)

    I am half Ibo, but i cannot speak the language to save my life, my dad is English. I was brought up in Lagos and i lived in a few other countries as well. My Ibo cousins who grew up in the east speak Ibo fluently and they speak it every and any where regardless… but in contrast my Ibo cousins who grew up in the west (Lagos) find it difficult to speak Ibo in public because they are ashamed of doing so.
    The Yoruba’s are slightly better than the Ibo’s in the language thing although there are a few who are ashamed of speaking it. I believe a lot has to do with our orientation as kids and, a lot of the blame lies at the feet of our parents.
    Most Nigerian parents want their kids to speak perfect English, and neglect their mother tongue. I believe my mum should have made more of an effort to teach my siblings and I Ibo, but she only spoke it to our ‘helps and her siblings and ironically my eastern cousins. I guess marrying my English Dad did not help matters. Suffice for me to say, i am learning Ibo, slowly but surely – Kedu, 🙂

    The preservation of our language is indeed necessary for the prolonged growth and relevance of our race otherwise we are facing extinction in a few 100 years – ‘mba nu’ we don’t want that abi? Biko make we learn our language and teach our children likewise, it is our cultural heritage O!


  10. Neo

    first time here, nice rant

    i dont speak my language, i speak basic yoruba sha cos most of my frnds r yoruba. The other day we were gisting in plain ol English when my Russian flatmate askd if we were speakin Nigerian! So new code language is pidgin!

  11. Gin

    The people in my area like speaking their language, Igbo, even if they can’t speak it they will ID each other as Igbo and will even try and speak the language for laughs, perhaps the Igbo people in your school are just general stupid people, no matter what ethnicity you are, stupid is universal.

  12. Siddon Look Mode Activated!

    Sugabelly, I don’t know the kind of Nigerians you have been hanging out with jo!

    When I was in school (until 2008), all the Yoruba-speakers would invariably blast the language whenever we met. And not all of us are Yoruba, but we had all grown up in Western Nigeria, so na Yooba we dey jam every time we see.

    Na wa o.

  13. Mcrazy

    Wow the Igbos in your school are quite funny.Most Nigerians I have met here are cool with speaking their local dialect some even boast about being able to speak two of our languages.However, I have met a few that have been here like two years and act like they have never been to Nigeria before!.I have encountered one or two and I was just shocked to my marrow because all the international students who speak anything other than English are always excited to speak their language people from their country.I guess it’s a colonial mentality thing.It really baffles me!.Although I must add that interest in other languages is not always to impress though..I’m taking Chinese right now because I’m just interested and my Chinese roommate was always bugging to take it because my pronunciation was apparently good.I also speak French because well in Canada, it increases employment opportunities.
    Sorry for the long comment.

  14. tunmi

    I know people like that and somehow we aren’t friends lol. I have Nigerian friends in America solely because I want to speak the language(s) with you. I am Yoruba and I speak Yoruba to my Nigerian friends. To the Igbo friends, we speak pidgin.

    If una wan do yanga, make una carry go.

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