The English Language as an Uncomfortable, Abiding and Indeed a Towering Monument in Nigeria and Africa

The English Language as an Uncomfortable, Abiding and Indeed a Towering Monument in Nigeria

The English Language, since the advent of the West onto the African soil, has been a major part of the everyday life of the average African. At a time when the ideals of the West were being whisked together with the ideals of Africa, English happened to be the only linguistic escape route for the success of the Western orchestration to be achieved. At the end of such linguistic communion, which could comfortably be referred to as a linguistic war, Africans didn't emerge the same as the English Language had been acquired, branded on the African identity with a hot and painful iron. From then unto this time, the English Language has remained priceless and of great value despite the circumstances surrounding its emergence in the African space. It has remained a viable and reliable means of communication in Africa, being a frontline language in the midst of the multiplicity of indigenous languages. It has become a second language and a foreign language in Nigeria and a good number of other neighbouring countries respectively. The language has been a national integrator, the mortar with which the Nigerian building blocks are held together. It is the means by which the national fabric is unified, and an attempt to take away the language will put an end to the existence of the Nigerian nation. As a matter of fact, the importance of the English Language cannot be overemphasized.

However, the English Language remains an uncomfortable, abiding and, indeed, a towering monument in Nigeria and a linguistic reminder of the painful encounter with the West. This is an assertion that cannot really be denied as the handwriting is boldly written all over the wall. Buildings, clothing, items and others may have passed away with time, but the English Language, which is an intangible commodity, has stayed afloat as a linguistic reminder of the Western encounter, which was a perilous encounter for most Africans. A single thought given to the advent of the language reminds one of the bitter colonial experiences of time past. English has remained an uncomfortable factor in the midst of the African indigenous languages, a language that has come to stay and remains at the topmost point, rooted in a solid foundation.

The English Language remains a threat to the indigenous languages of Africa which have been undermined. The Mother Tongue (MT) of the various regions have since been and are continually oppressed. Every good school teaches English, and the focus is usually on British English. There is almost no school that teaches African indigenous languages with the same seriousness and vision with which the English Language is taught. The study of indigenous languages is never an interesting topic to a vast majority of Africans. Only a handful of us even consider the study of these languages an option. Society has attached so much importance to the English Language and has stripped the African indigenous languages of any prestige left of them. A university degree in Igbo, Yoruba, Islamic Studies or any other indigenous language is not as much valued by parents as a university degree in English. As a result, students do not consider studying these languages as reasonable. To a large extent, the African indigenous languages are endangered in the face of the English Language, thereby making the latter an uncomfortable factor.

Furthermore, the English Language is strongly abiding on the African soil. The language has come to stay, remains a frontrunner and is not going down anytime soon. From its advent till date, it has remained firm and has never faced any threat of eradication. It is not just a language among others in Africa but has gained so exalted a status that it now serves as a second language in Nigeria and a foreign language in some neighbouring African states. It is a chosen language and a special one given the fact that it is being accorded great importance as a foreign language which is studied critically even by Africans for foreign and international purposes. English has risen to the status of a global language, and no African society has been able to ignore its rise.

Referring to English as a towering monument in the African situation is also not a strange statement as English has successfully planted itself in a large space and continues to abide strongly herein. It has erected itself in all nooks and crannies of the Nigerian sphere: education, banking, government, publishing etc. The colonial masters and slave traders may have left, and African countries may have successfully fought for and attained their independence, but the towering monument of the English language continues to remain bold and strong – a concrete proof of the painful and bitter encounter with the West, reaching beyond every reasonable doubt.

In a nutshell, the English Language continues to rise and is too solidly rooted in Africa to be displaced. Africans will forever be reminded of the bitter experiences they encountered in the hands of the cruel ambassadors of the West as long as the English Language continues to be learnt, spoken and utilized in various spheres of society by various groups of Africans.

Coauthored by:
Boma Batubo

Tamuno Reuben

Those who seek knowledge seek power because the pen is mightier than the sword.

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