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English language versus local languages  
English language versus local languages

Best of 2014: English, please!

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Africa, with all its diverse cultures, boasts more than 2000 languages, which is almost one third of the world’s native languages according to the United Nations. But these languages are gradually becoming extinct. How do young Africans feel about their indigenous languages, and why do they seem to prefer foreign languages like English and French?

In this week’s edition of Speak Up, young Nigerians talk about the 'rivalry' between English and their indigenous languages. First we listen to Kilechi, Esther and Fred giving their opinion, and then we hear from two professionals for whom language is essential in their work: Dr Yousuf Kalli Ghezali, who is a medical doctor, and RnB musician Silver Saddih.

In case you cannot download or stream the programme, check out the transcript of excerpts from the show below:

Kilechi: English is very important, we use it to communicate wherever we are, especially in such a country like Nigeria that is culturally diverse.

Fred: Being able to speak English is one thing, and being able to speak it correctly is one other thing. A child that is very well picked (sic) in English language will be more favoured in terms of going for competitions in school, attending debates and speaking up for other people in his class. Not necessarily going by the foreign accent but the correct intonation, the right diction.

Kilechi: It will not be interesting, it will lose its originality, because Nigeria is a country rich in diverse culture and in fact some of our English translations don’t carry the original meaning of the words we’re translating.

Esther: I specifically don’t like to speak my tribe (sic). Most times we communicate, even in my house, in English; we grew up with this English setting. We’re just not used in speaking our tribe.

Kilechi: It is a very glaring statistic now that local languages, local dialects […] are dying. Parents have left the raising of their kids in the hands of schools, in the hands of teachers. Having parents [teach) their local dialects to their kids when they are home would go a long way. When the kids are at school, they speak good English, and when they are at home they can understand what the parents are saying in their local language.

Dr Yousuf Kalli Ghezali: Whether you like it or not, wherever you find yourself practicing. It’s only natural for you to adopt the common language of that community, or else you’re going to miss the basic points in terms of your clinical history and diagnosis. So learning the language in the community you are serving is very important.

Silver Saddih: I’m actually used to singing mostly in English, but I’ve always thought that music is a universal language; it doesn’t matter in what language you sing. And if I can sing Hausa and I can speak English, it’s only natural that I fuse it into my music. I think Nigerians like to recognize and appreciate the fact that this is our own, so those things are like identities that help you to say this is who you are and this is where you come from.

About Speak UP!

Speak UP! is an audio show in which young Africans discuss thorny social issues without pulling any punches. It is created by a selection of young hosts and producers in Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria and Kenya, working in partnership with local media organizations and RNW. Each edition of Speak UP! provides YOU with a chance to express yourself – because everybody wants to be heard.

Check out What's Up Africa blogger Ikenna's hilarious take on the English language taken too far. And if there’s a topic you’d like to speak up about, get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter!