Speaking in a mother tongue speaks to the heart

There are about 400 languages in Nigeria, including the official language (English) and the national languages Hausa (hau), Igbo (ibo) and Yoruba (yor), each with at least 20 million speakers.

Yet even such widely spoken tongues face pressure. Take Beatrice Ejiogu, whose first language is English because her Igbo parents adopted English and sent her to South Africa for schooling. She has returned to Nigeria for university but cannot communicate with her grandparents. As reported in “Using language as instrument of national identity,” her situation is common among the youth of today in Nigeria.

According to Ukegbu Kazi, a secondary school principal, parents should always speak to their children in their native tongues to preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage.

The importance of doing so is summarized in a quote in the article from former South African President Nelson Mandela, who evidently once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

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