Archive for the ‘Hausa (hau)’ Category

Speaking in a mother tongue speaks to the heart

26 May 2012

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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Spelling unification movement in Africa

10 May 2011

In Italian, the “ch” in “che” and “chi” stands for the /k/ sound. In Spanish, “ch” is used for the “ch” English sound. In French, “ch” is used for the “sh” English sound. All of these languages use the Latin alphabet, but the orthographies, or writing systems, differ.

How about if the orthographies of English, French, Italian and Spanish were unified so all letters and letter combinations were pronounced consistently in each language? It would be much easier to read and learn all four languages.

When creating a unified orthography, it would be necessary to consider sounds unique to each language. For example, “th” could stand for the sound as in “thick” and “dh” for the sound as in “this.” The combinations “th” and “dh” are not used in French, Italian or Spanish, so there would be no conflict. The combination “gl,” however, has a different pronunciation in Italian than English, French and Spanish. Perhaps an acceptable solution would be for “gl” to remain as in English, and for “ly” to be used for the Italian sound currently spelled as “gl.”

According to “Presenting the new orthographies” on the Next website, this sort of “orthography harmonization” for Igbo (ibo), Ijo (family), Hausa (hau) and Yoruba (yor) has just been completed after about six months of work.

This work was performed by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization and the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society. CASAS has worked on similar projects in the past as part of their “Africa-wide Harmonization and Standardization of African Languages Project,” and the next such project will focus on Nigerian Fulfulde (ful) and other languages in Nigeria.

With the unified orthography completed, dissemination must be carried out, including providing new textbooks to educators to ensure the system takes hold.

The unified orthography is provided in four volumes published by CASAS, numbers 240 to 243.

Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba as well as Nigerian Fulfulde each have millions of speakers, but the family of Ijo languages range from Okodia (okd) with a 1977 estimate of 3600 and Nkoroo (nkx) with a 1989 estimate of 4550 to Izon (ijc) with about one million speakers.