Coming Soon: REPATRIATION

REPATRIATION. . .

What is it?

What does REPATRIATION mean to [continental] African youth living in the Diaspora, especially considering the present political environment?

How feasible is repatriation?

How many are actually willing to return home?

What are some reasons why someone would not want to make the big move back to Africa?

What are some potential challenges with repatriation?

For those who have repatriated, what has their experience been like?

How can we bridge the gap between those living in the Diaspora and those on the Continent?

What type of reception would Africans back home give to those returning from the Diaspora?

And finally, for our brothers and sisters living in the States, the Caribbean, Latin America, and elsewhere across the globe, whose ancestors played an integral part in building many of these great societies that we know today — what does that mean for them to come to Africa after tracing their lineage, or adopting new cultural identities altogether — what would that experience be for them? And do they see it as necessary or important?

What does it mean for them to connect with their ancestral land, after being so far removed physically, culturally, and otherwise?

Stay tuned for more on this in the coming week.

repatriation

Repatriation Advice For Those Who Just Got Back To Africa
Repatriating To Africa \ Facebook Group
African American in Africa
The Experience of African-Americans in Africa
The Black Expat
The Repat Diaries: No Place Like Home
We Want To Go Home
Perhaps, We Really Should Go Back to Africa
Repatriation: Africa in the Horizon
Back to Africa Movement
7 Reasons Why Many People in the African Diaspora Are Repatriating to Ghana
If African-Americans Returned to Africa
African-Americans Resettle in Africa
Africans Returning Home in Large Numbers
Africa’s Secret Weapon: The Diaspora

IGBO CONVERSATION HOUR HAS NOW GONE VIRTUAL! JOIN US ONLINE AT Join.Me EVERY 2ND FRIDAY OF THE MONTH! FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK FOR MORE UPDATES!

-NKIRUKA OBI | FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER @AFRICANMINDED

What’s In A Name?, (Part III): Your Name, Your Experience

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Your Name, Your Experience

To close out the “What’s In A Name?” series, I posed a few questions to my friends online:

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…what were some challenges you had growing up, (or even now), with your name? Did you like your name growing up? Did you ever want to change it? How has your perception of your name and your heritage changed from childhood to now?

I initially targeted the question towards those who had grown up in the States from diverse cultural backgrounds, such as those who, like me, had the “immigrant experience” in different ways. I later reached out to my friends who were born and raised in the United States and whose families have been living here for generations, with similar questions but with a slightly different focus. For those of them who have an interest in African diaspora studies, I asked them to share their stories about how they came to adopt or identify with African names — who gave them the name, or how they acquired the name for themselves? what the name means, both on a cultural level and personally to them? and why did they feel it necessary to identify with Africa in that way?

Here are their names, here are their experiences:

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“Baakir was a Swahili name typically given to the 1st born son. Tyehimba meant “of nations” or someone who was rooted in building for his community. Barashango was a title for leader or doctor. A former friend gave [the name] to me. A name is supposed to provide you with a sense of pride in your cultural heritage. I felt having that name connected me to my roots.” – Justin C.
“My name is really common in Israel so growing up there I didn’t think much of it… Since moving to the U.S. it’s obviously become a more “exotic” name…I can’t just introduce myself casually in conversation without someone asking me how my name’s spelled, what it means, where it’s from, etc. I work at a restaurant & I never introduce myself by name to customers because I realized quickly that it always leads to them asking for my whole back story, sometimes even asking my opinions about politics in the Middle East…I personally like having a foreign name because it’s a part of my language and my identity, but sometimes it’s a burden because it tends to give me a certain label (and explaining it to others is not always convenient).” – Noam S.
“I always dreaded the first day of school because the teacher would always mispronounce [my name] and the other students would laugh. Sometimes teachers would just skip my name instead of trying to pronounce it. The worst part was that I missed participating in a school spelling bee final because the person that was calling names of finalists to come and participate just skipped my name because they couldn’t pronounce it”. – Ugo C.
“I have a very old school name – people are always asking me if I was named after my grandmother. When I had [my daughter], it was very important for me to give her a ‘normal name’ so she would not be teased or questioned.” – Gladys K.

I did not like my name when I was young, but now I love it.

“As a child my name was troublesome for me because people had such a difficult time pronouncing it. As I grew I began to realize that it was a great conversation starter for people that are unfamiliar with West African names. I am not sure when exactly, (probably sometime in late high school ), but at some point my name became almost a kind of battlecry or personal flag.” – Azubuike N.
kids-laughing-jpg-838x0_q80“It took me awhile to grow to love my name the way I do now. My brothers all had ‘common’ names: Isaac, Jose, Ricardo, and even Thomas. It always bothered me to have a name that no one could ever pronounce. A substitute teacher in High School once stood in front of class confident the pronunciation of my name was diarrhea. I made light of the situation by correcting the teacher but it bothered me very much. It is for this reason that when I became a mother I chose names that, to me, were ‘normal’. I’ve asked my mother on several occasions the reason behind my name. Her response was that she named me after one of her dearest friends in Honduras. I’ve even looked up the meaning of my name and never really got anything other than its varying form, Daria. As an adult, I love my name and its uniqueness. I am not very often confused because I’m not a Sara, Jessica, or Samantha. My name stands alone and represents me and honors someone, my mothers friend. Although I may never find a keychain, shirt, or anything inscribed with my name – it’s my name.” – Daira R.
“My name has ALWAYS been mispronounced and at some point in my life, I decided to shorten it and tell people the first part of it only! Not because I was ashamed, just wanted to make life easy for me. Now I take so much pride and always tell people my full first name, and if they care that much, they’ll try their best. I thank my parents for not giving me any European names that have nothing to do with where I came from. I always loved my name and NEVER wanted to change it. I would love to meet someone with the same name though!”- Amekjang B.

I didn’t like my name growing up because teachers and classmates would always mispronounce it…

“…I had to either always correct or simply accept the mispronunciation, (which always ended up being the case). Then there were the mean, dumb, and stupid kids in class that called me Ma-Zola corn oil….Now I embrace my name pronounced Soy-la…And what’s better is that when coupled with my middle name Esperanza it gives an empowering meaning: Soy la Esperanza. It’s Spanish that translates to ‘I am the hope.'” Zoila B.
“Even till this day my name is still unrecognizable within ththe-top-twelve-reasons-why-so-many-good-black-men-are-still-singlee Igbocentric domain, so one can only imagine how I felt bearing such a name in 1970s England. It was a struggle for me and I had no English name as a “backup” or alternative. My dad constantly assured me and emphasized the uniqueness of my name as he explained the meaning of Onyeibo to mean “a companion” or “the 2nd.” It was not until we arrived in Enugu in the early 80’s that my dad gave me a book written by Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike titled “The Potters Wheel”. Contained within its pages in black and white was my name as one of the main characters. None will ever comprehend or imagine my ecstatic euphoria upon seeing this, and thus began my awakening into taking pride in my name.” –Onyeibo A.
“I loved my name growing up. Obianuju is not as common as [Igbo] names starting with chi. The difficult part was teaching non-Igbos to pronounce the stresses right, but I just shortened it to Uju. I go by Cynthia because my Igbo name is very dear to me and only people I love and care about call me that. It is Cynthia for public, Uju for intimate.” – Cynthia M.
“I never liked my name. I’m often judged on my character, intelligence and capabilities before I even speak a word. My name on paper doesn’t define me… I thought about changing it several times, I just don’t feel like going through all the motions. Oh! And growing up hearing people say my name wrong only annoyed me more. So nobody calls me Shaquasia. I go by my last name or other nicknames for years now.” – Shaquasia W.

It was annoying seeing teachers, kids, and one time my principal (sometimes purposely) butcher my name.

“…I would get called: Wackachoo, Wakachoochoo, Wachoo, and the one I hate most — Wachovia, (this was done by my old manager). It is the EASIEST name to pronounce WA-CHOO-KOO  Wachuku means ‘Child of God’ in Igbo/Rivers, (most likely Opobo/Ikwerre region). Its a name that I’m proud of. In the future, I plan on naming my children Igbo names. – Nina W. 
“Omolabake means ‘my child shall be cherished.’ My name was constantly butchered, and I always wished I had an easier Nigerian name. I remember in 6th grade I was asked what name I would pick if given the opportunity? I said Funke because I liked it and thought girls named Funke were pretty. I was ridiculed, called funky, & one of my friends actually told me I should’ve picked a name like Ashley. I felt so bad and even ashamed. Once I graduated from high school, I began using Winifred officially. Yet, even then, I was still being picked on. I was called Winterfresh (gum), etc. Let’s just say it’s been an interesting childhood. – Winifred W.
In Nigeria, it made me feel important, it had meaning, it made me feel like I belonged. In America, it made me feel like an alien, “the African girl”, and most importantly, it meant nothing to no one and it began to lose meaning to me as well.
“I didn’t have much challenges with my name growing up in Nigeria…Growing up in America is another story. It’s like people do not have respect for people’s names. I’ve had my last name butchered, up to the point that I just asked peo05b245e27f99a175d751eb82d3b02dfaple to call me Song. It made me embarrassed to be African and when people would ask me what [my name] meant. I did not like my name growing up in America. I think my perception of my name changed drastically between two worlds, because really, America a
nd Nigeria ARE in fact 2 different worlds. In Nigeria, it made me feel important, it had meaning, it made me feel like I belonged. In America, it made me feel like an alien, “the African girl”, and most importantly, it meant nothing to no one and it began to lose meaning to me as well. Today, my perception of my name has changed. It makes me stand out in the midst of others. Before, it made me feel like an outsider, but today when I say my name, I get to tell people about my heritage and who I am and where I grew up. – Victoria S.

 

“Our teacher asked everyone of us to go home and ask our parents the meaning of our names, so I asked my mom why she named me Chibuzor. She said while giving birth to me, I came out without much pain to her, so with joy she named me Chi na eburum uzor, cut short as Chibuzor, or ‘God first’.  It’s important for everyone of us to ask our parents why they named us the way they did.” – Chibuzor O. 
“I make people pronounce it the right way and I don’t make them feel bad if they just can’t get it.”

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What did you think about the “What’s In A Name?” series? What topics would you like us to explore next? Please leave your comments below. Share your stories with us. What does your name mean to you? Is it just a name or something more?

Click here to view Part I of “What’s In A Name?”
Part 1.2: Categories of Igbo Names…
Part 2…

Don’t forget to join us at Igbo Conversation Hour at International House every 2nd Friday of the month! Follow us on Facebook for more updates!

-NKIRUKA OBI | FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER @AFRICANMINDED

 

What’s In A Name, (Pt. 1.2): Categories of Igbo Names

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While researching the topic of naming in Igbo culture, I found that there are different categories that names can fall under.

To briefly reemphasize the main points from the previous post, Igbo children are traditionally given names:

  • based on the market day they were born (eke, orie, afor, nkwo);
  • historical or culturally significant circumstances surrounding their family, social environment, or their birth;
  • the birth order designation of the males and females in the family
    • for example: opara/ opala is the 1st born son, whereas the 1st daughter is ada, the 2nd ulu, & the 3rd is ibari. 
  • girls are often named after symbols of beauty in nature & art
  • statements of life experience
    • the vast majority of names are abbreviated statements of great meaning & significance
    • interpretations of life experiences or of events that took place in the history of the family.

Igbo names are often a form of prayer for the child, or that the child’s birth into the family was an answered prayer. Some Igbo names also indicate whether or not a family has had a rough past experience, especially as it relates to child bearing.

The Categories of Names

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There are numerous categories of Igbo names, but for the sake of this post, it will only be limited to those that are the most common.

  • There are names that use the child’s arrival as an occasion to boast & make statements of triumph over misfortune or victory over evil ones.
    • Ndukagba — “let detractors at last leave me in peace”, Onukwugha — “the mouth that spoke ill should now recant”
  • ‘Kwe’ names are names that reflect a background of past opposition with the promise of greater achievement in life if only their enemies would give their family a chance.
    • Uwakwe — “if only the world would let me”, Ibekwe — “if only my peers would let me”
  • There are pro-child names that are given in appreciation of the blessing of a child (nwa) as the greatest gift one could wish for in life.
    • Nwakaego — “child is more than money”, Ginikanwa — “what is greater than a child?”
    • Under the category of pro-child (nwa) names, include those that are supposed to guarantee posterity & inheritance by giving names that perpetuate immortality in a sense by allowing parents to secure their legacy, so to speak, with the name of the child.
      • Afamefuna — “may my name not be lost”, Nwariaku — “may my child inherit my property”
  • There are pro-life names, as life (ndu) is acclaimed the greatest of all values.
    • Ndukaku — “life is greater than riches”, Chijindu — “God is the sustainer of life”
  • Death (onwu) names are typically given after a previous child(ren) dies.
    • Onwubiko — “please, death, spare us”, Onwuamaenyi — “death knows no friends”, Onwugbaramuko — “death robbed me of my pride”
  • Among the most popular are the God (Chi) names that invokes the individual’s personal god (chi) or God, the Creator (Chineke), or the Great God (Chukwu) for protection, prosperity, & helping them to reach their destiny.
    • Chinonso — “God is nearby”, Chinedum — “God leads me” , Chinwendu — “God is the owner of life”, Chukwuemeka — “God has been so good”
  • Eke names
    • Eke, or destiny, is the principle of creation & apportionment of lot & destiny within the God concept.
  • Uwa names – Seeing the world (uwa) as destiny.
    • Uwazie — “may destiny be good to me”, Uwakwe — “may destiny let me”/ (“may destiny work in my favor”)

Igbo Names – Forms & Foundations

1. Afa omumu (birth name)
2. Afa nna (surname)
3. Afa ogugu (given name)
4. Afa ulo/uno (pet/ family name)
5. Afa njo (reincarnation name)
6. Afa otutu/otu (nickname/ society name)
7. Afa echichi (title name)

-NKIRUKA OBI | FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER @AFRICANMINDED

 

What’s In A Name?, (Part I)

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There was a post I read online sometime ago about African naming systems, with the focal point being on the Ewe people of West Africa. The traditional practice of this cultural group is to keep newborn babies indoors for 7 whole days after they are born, due to this period being said to be a vulnerable time for them as it pertains to physical and spiritual harm. The belief is that the newborn is a wanderer from the spirit world and they may decide to go back to the spirit world at any time during that first week.

On the 8th day, the newborn is presented to the community and they are officially acknowledged as a child, and no longer a spirit.

This simple post struck me in a way like no other, for it outlined the importance of names especially in African societies. Traditionally, the name of a child was not taken lightly because it is seen as an essential component of the spiritual anatomy of the African person, as it confirms their identity. The part that resonated with my spirit the most was the following quote:

“…it has been said that power from the sounds and vibrations of a properly given name moves throughout the spirit of the African person when heard or spoken. The spirit responds to this power, stirring within the person an awareness of their unique purpose in life and of the potential they possess to carry out that purpose.”

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A father introducing his child in public during an Ewe naming ceremony.

So, What’s In A Name???

“The [naming ceremony] is done to fulfill the social-religious obligations that are believed to become activated when a child is born, as well as to thank God for the safe delivery of the child and to ask him to guide the child as he embarks on a journey through the earth…”

In African societies, a name confers status in the community. Naming ceremonies mark the formal presentation of the child to his kinsmen, family, friends, well-wishers, and the entire community at large. The ceremonies serve to strengthen the community by transmitting communal values and showing the interconnectedness of all members of the community.

The importance of communal ties and the extended family in African societies cannot be overemphasized.  By naming and presenting the child to the public, it signifies that the child does not belong to the parents alone, or even the immediate family, but to the extended family and community as well.

Factors Considered When Naming A Child

-location of a person’s birth
-order of birth
-circumstances surrounding the birth
-gender of the child
-family history
-hopes the parents have for the future of the child
-observations, birthmarks, or other notable characteristics about the child.

Igbo Name Giving Traditions

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In the Igbo tradition as it pertains to the name of the child:

  • Igbo names always bear a message, a meaning, a record of history, a prayer or well-wishes that the parents or grandparents have for the child;
  • The name is often used to express heartfelt wishes or future hopes and expectations for the child;
  • The father typically names the child;
  • Traditionally, in the olden days of Igbo society, people were named based on the market day (eke, orie, afor, nkwo) of the week that they were born on.

Igbo Names – Forms & Foundations

1. Afa omumu (birth name)
2. Afa nna (surname)
3. Afa ogugu (given name)
4. Afa ulo/uno (pet/family name)
5. Afa njo (reincarnation name)
6. Afa otutu/otu (nickname/ society name)
7. Afa echichi (title name)

There are many different categories of Igbo names as outlined in this follow up post.

Igbo name giving ceremonies, (known in Igbo as “ikuputanwa” or “igu nwa afa”) are usually officiated by the paternal grandparents. The ceremony traditionally begins with ancestral recognition & divination, followed by the name giving & planting of a live plant to represent life & survival. Afterwards, is the pouring of libation to share the child’s name with the ancestors. Following the usual breaking of kola nuts and the offering of prayers, the ceremony traditionally lasts the whole day, ending with a family procession.

**Due to religion and modernity,  naming ceremonies and many other traditional practices are fading out. Although naming ceremonies are still present and culturally significant, they are becoming less elaborate and commonplace.**

Be sure to check out Part II of “What’s In A Name?” here.

-NKIRUKA OBI | FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER @AFRICANMINDED

To find out more about different naming systems across Africa and the Diaspora and their significance, visit the following links:

Importance of the Naming Ceremony in Africa
Igbo Name Giving Ceremonies
The Naming Ceremony Process in Igbo Land
Ethnographic Study of Igbo Naming Ceremony
Naming Ceremony in Igbo Land
African Baby Naming Ceremonies
African Traditional Baby Naming Ceremonies
7 Traditional African Naming Ceremonies
The Yoruba Naming Ceremony
African Naming Practices
Naming in Africa
African Names and Naming Practices Thesis
Africanisms in African American Names in the United States
Ewe Naming Ceremony Post on Facebook

What’s In A Name? (Part II)

Here’s a list of some common Igbo names and their meanings.

See any that you like? Is your name on this list? What names would you give your children?

Male names are denoted with an (m), female with an (f), and unisex names with a (u).

Be sure to check out Part I of “What’s In A Name?” where we discuss the significance of traditional Igbo names and their respective meanings. Join the conversation and share with us your thoughts: does it matter if names have meanings associated with them? Aren’t they just names – no big deal, right? What does your name mean? Were you named after anyone important in your family history? Have you ever asked your parents why they chose your name?

Amauchenna / Amuche (m) “Who Knows God’s Thoughts?”
Amechi (m) “Who Knows Tomorrow?”
Anayochukwu (m) “We Always Ask God”
Anene (m) “We Look”
Afamefuna (m) “May My Name Not Be Lost”
Azubuike (m) “The Past Is Strength”
Azuka (m) “Future Is Greater”
Chidozie (m) “God Fixes”
Chidube (Chidubem) (m) “God Guides” / “God Guides Me”
Chiemeka (m) “God Did Great”
Chigozirim (m) “God Blessed Me”
Chijioke (m) “God Has Shares”
Chikezie (m) “God Creates Well”
Chimaraoke (m) “God Knows Each Person’s Share”
Chinedu (Chinedum) (m) “God Is Guiding (Me)”
Chinenye (m) “God Gives”
Chinua (Chinualumuogu) (m) “God Fights” / “God Will Fight For Me”
Chisom (m) “God Is With Me”
Chukwudi (m) “God Exists”
Chukwuemeka (m) “God Has Done Great”
Chukwuma (m) “God Knows”
Ifeanacho (m) “What We Seek”
Ifeanyichukwu (m) “Nothing Confounds God”
Igwebuike (m) “Unity Is Strength”
Ikechukwu (m) “God’s Strength”
Ikemefuna (m) “My Line Continues”
Ikenna (m) “God’s Strength”
Izuchukwu (m) “God’s Secret”
Jideofor (m) “Have Good Conscience”
Ndubuisi (m) “Life Is First”
Nnamdi (m) “My Father Exists”
Nwachukwu (m) “God’s Child”
Nwora (m) “Child of the People”/ “Public’s Child”
Obinna (m) “Father’s Wish”
Obiora (m) “Public’s Wish”
Ogbonnaya (m) “Father’s Friend”
Ogechi/ Ogechukwu (m) “God’s Time”
Ositadinma (m) “It Shall Be Well From This Day Onwards”
Okwudili (m) “God Is Judge”
Onyebuchi (m) “Who Is God?”
Onyekachi (m) “Who Is Greater Than God?”
Onyema (m) “Who Knows?”
Oluchukwu (m) “God’s Handwork”
Uchenna (m) “God’s Wish”

 

Adaeze (f) “King’s Daughter/ Princess”
Adaugo (f) “Eagle’s Daughter”
Amaka (f) “Beauty”
Amarachi/ Amarachukwu (f) “God’s Grace”
Chiamaka (f) “God Is Beautiful”
Chinasa (f) “God Answers”
Chinyere (f) “God Gave”
Chioma (f) “Good God”
Ezinne (f) “Good Mother”
Ezinwa (f) “Good Child”
Ifeoma (f) “A Good Thing”
Ngozi (f) “Blessing”
Nkechi (f) “God’s Own”
Nkeoma (f) “A Good Thing”
Nkiruka (f) “The Future Is Greater”
Nneka (f) “Mother Is Supreme”
Nwakego (f) “Child Is Superior To Money”
Obiageli (f) “Honored Guest”
Ukamaka (f) “Sunday Is Great”
Uzoamaka (f) “Good Way”

 

Chibueze (u) “God Is King”
Chibuzo (u) “God Is First”
Chidi (u) “God Exists”
Chigozie (u) “God Bless”
Chima (u) “God Knows”
Chizoba (u) “God Will Defend”
Ebere (u) “Mercy”
Ozioma (u) “Good News”
Ozoemena (u) “No More Grief”
Uchechukwu (u) “God’s Wish”/ “Mind of God”

 

Ị na-asụ Igbo? (Do you speak Igbo?)

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Greetings!! I’ve gathered a few Igbo language learning resources for you that you can use to help you practice and continue to build your Igbo language skills. Some of them are free, while others you pay a small fee for, but remember — the most important thing is to practice, practice, practice! If you have any other Igbo apps, websites, or books that you’ve found helpful, please be sure to share it with us. And as always, join us for Igbo Conversation Hour every 2nd Friday of the month at International House of Charlotte.
Daalunu!
  • Ị Na-asu Igbo: Greetings Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 7.21.20 PM.png screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-7-19-30-pm

  • Igbo English Translator 

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  • iSabi Igbo 

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    • Full Version ($9.99)
    • iSabi Igbo I for Beginners ($4.99)
    • iSabi Igbo II – Situations ($3.99)
    • iSabi Igbo III – Verbs ($3.99)
    • iSabi Igbo Free
  • Igbo Bekee ọkọwa okwu

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  • Okowaokwu Igbo Umuaka: Igbo Dictionary for Children by Yvonne Mbanefo 51AxDWs0EeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

  • Igbo Kids’ Coloring Book: Akwukwo Agba Umuaka Igbo by Yvonne Mbanefo51duumaxoil-_sx384_bo1204203200_

  • My First Igbo Dictionary: Color and Learn 41dmhlm8erl-_sx384_bo1204203200_

  • Ije, the World Traveler, Teaches You Common Igbo Words by Ijeoma Emeka & Ijeoma Okoli 51JOgiJlAyL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

  • Igbo-English Dictionary & Phrasebook: A Language of Nigeria by Nicholas Awde & Onyekachi Wambu51pc8omzf5l-_sx256_bo1204203200_

  • Modern Igbo: A Concise Introduction to the Igbo Language 41sirfaaml-_sx311_bo1204203200_

  • Easy to Learn: Igbo Language by Victor Okorochukwu 41q-pBdSKyL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

  • Igbo Language for Beginners by Victor Okorochukwu 41twlsmwjpl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

  • Igbo Idioms by Mark Onyekwere
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  • Igbo Dictionary Offline screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-12-59-15-am

  • Learn Igbo 101
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  • Learn Simple Igbo

  • LEARN IGBO Now

  • Igbo Focus: Learn simple igbo
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  • Igbo 101 screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-7-57-02-pm

Language & Identity: The Future of the Igbo Language

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“How important is language and cultural preservation to the survival of a people?”

Language, Culture, and Identity

Language and culture are intricately related and interdependent on one another. Language is an integral part of culture, while culture is largely influenced and impacted by language. Many linguists hold the view that languages are unique, cultural treasures. As part of our cultural identity as humans, language is representative of our respective heritages and history. It connects people with their ancestors, their native lands, and it is an essential part of their history and how they see themselves in the world. But due to modernity and globalization, we are seeing the accelerated decline, and in many cases loss of languages, while the economically powerful languages continue to dominate.

How and Why Do Languages Die?

It is estimated that there are about 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, but about 35% of them are losing speakers or are more seriously endangered. Language loss or language death occurs when a language has no more native speakers, or more specifically, when the last known speaker dies, thus making it a dead language. So, how and why do languages die exactly? A variety of factors and situations, often combined, contributes to the decline and ultimately the tragic demise of a language; these reasons can be political, economic, and cultural in nature.

Languages can die out quickly when:

  • Small, concentrated communities of speakers are wiped out by natural disasters , famine, and disease.
  • War and genocide takes place.
  • Speakers become bilingual and they begin to lose proficiency in their native languages
    • This typically happens when speakers seek to adopt the language of the land for social and economic advantages or to avoid discrimination. For example, 2nd generation immigrants in the U.S. often do not speak their parents’ native languages fluently, due to the economic and cultural benefits of speaking the language of the land, which in this case is English.
  • Migration plays a significant role in language change and death.
  • It is also important to note that political repression and cultural hegemony and marginalization are also causes which prevent or discourage speakers from using a language.

When a language dies out, future generations lose a vital part of their cultural heritage.

UNESCO defines 4 degrees of language endangerment between “safe” and “extinct”:

  1. vulnerable (not spoken by children outside of the home)
  2. definitely endangered (children or younger generations do not grow up speaking the language)
  3. severely endangered (language is only spoken by the older generations)
  4. critically endangered (the language is spoken by few members of the oldest generation, often semi-speakers, or those who have a partially limited command of the language use).

The Future of Igbo Language?

800px-Nigeria_Benin_Cameroon_languages.pngLinguistic Map of Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon.

Igbo is a tonal language in the Niger-Congo family that is spoken by nearly 25 million people with more than 20 different dialects. According to UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Igbo language may be facing the threat of extinction by the year 2025, (which is a little less than 9 years from now), if nothing is done to stop or reverse the decline.

Many scholars and proponents of Igbo language also fear the same as our world increasingly becomes more globalized, many cultural values and traditions, language included, are gradually disappearing or becoming diluted.

What caused the decline in Igbo language use?

The decline in Igbo language use can be traced to:

  • British colonization and the subjugation of Igbo culture and language to English culture
  • Religion and Western education
  • Most primary and secondary schools in Nigeria do not offer Igbo language in their curriculum thereby setting the stage for the slow death of the language
  • Sadly, some parents have even stopped raising their children to speak the language, but rather encourage and reinforce English speaking in the home.

    What can be done???
    Language Revival vs. Language Revitalization

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Language revival: the resurrection of a dead language with no existing native speakers.
Language revitalization:
the rescue of a “dying” language.

Language revitalization, also known as language revival or reversing language shift, is an attempt by linguists, governments, and community groups to halt or reverse the decline of a language or to revive an extinct one.

David Crystal in his book Language Death proposes 6 factors to help a declining language progress.

  1. Increase the language’s prestige within the dominant community.
  2. Increase the wealth and income of speakers.
  3. Increase speakers power in the eyes of the dominant community.
  4. Ensure that speakers have a strong presence in the education system.
  5. The language should have a written form and literacy should be encouraged.
  6. There should be a possibility of access to electronic technology.

LET’S BRING IT HOME!

happy-african-children

How can we revive the usage of Igbo language, (or other African languages), particularly in the Diaspora?

  • Exposure to and acquisition of the language at a young age.
  • Employ language immersion techniques.
    • Engaging in conversations with native or near-native speakers, watching TV/movies/multimedia, (with subtitles preferably), in the language, listening to music.
  • Address different varieties of the language (vernacular, dialect, …)
  • Encourage parents to use the language with their children.
  • Find language partners or groups.
  • Understand that language revitalization is a long process – don’t give up!
  • Make a deliberate effort to engage in the language, (whether by reading, speaking, listening, or writing), everyday!

Don’t forget to join us at Igbo Conversation Hour at International House every 2nd Friday of the month! Follow us on Facebook for more updates!

-NKIRUKA OBI | FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER @AFRICANMINDED

***For more information on the topic of language in society, please visit the following links:

Language Shift & Death in Africa
Language & Identity: A Case of Igbo Language
Code-switching in Igbo-English Bilingualism
Saving Igbo Language From Extinction
Sociolinguistic Functions of Igbo Language
Igbo Language & Its Downward Trend
About World Languages: Igbo
Why Do Languages Die?
Language Loss, Causes, and Cures
Endangered Languages: Why So Many Are Becoming Extinct?
UNESCO Prediction on the Extinction of Igbo Language in 2025
Igbo As An Endangered Language
Language Endangerment: Issues of Igbo Proverbs
UNESCO & Endangered Igbo Language
When Languages Die, We Lose
Disappearing Languages
Opinion Piece: Endangered Igbo Language
What Is An Endangered Language
Can A First Language Be Forgotten?
Remembering Childhood Languages
You Never Forget Your Mother Tongue
How Not to Lose First Language
Teach Yourself Igbo

Igbo Quick Facts!

In this post, you will find brief tidbits of information about Ndi Igbo (Igbo people). Stay tuned because in the following weeks there will be more posts to further elaborate on some of the points you will find here. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any suggestions, if you need clarification, or any other thing you would like us to know.

Daalu unu! (Thank you all!)

  • Igbos are among the largest ethnic group in Nigeria.
  • Yam is a very important staple crop.
  • Various Igbo subgroups were organized by clan, lineage, village affiliation, & dialect.
  • In traditional society, communities are and were typically governed and administered by a council of elders.
  • Umunna — a form of patrilineage; can be seen as the most important pillar of Igbo society.
  • The traditional Igbo calendar week has 4 market days, 7 weeks in a month, and 13 months in a year.
  • Nsibidi – indigenous ideographic set of symbols that are no longer widely used; usage died out after becoming popular among secret societies, which used it as a form of communication.
  • Igbo is a tonal language.
  • Igbo religion and traditions are known as Odinani (also known as Odinala, Omenala, Omenani). In Odinani, there is a belief that the cosmos are divided into four complex parts: Okike (creation), Alusi (supernatural forces/ deities), Mmuo (spirit), and Uwa (the world).
  • As a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, there are high populations of the Igbo diaspora in Jamaica, Cuba, Saint-Domingue, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, and the U.S.