Nigerians have been urged to promote the use of their native tongues while interacting with one another, as the use of foreign languages not only shows the vestiges of colonisation but is hampering the development of society in many ways.
Also, the government has been advised to take seriously the promotion of the use of the mother tongue in instructing pupils and students in primary and junior secondary schools.
This was part of the submissions by language experts, psychologists and linguists at a round table discussion on “Language, identity and governance” organised by the Centre for Yoruba Studies, Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, Lagos at the weekend.
The roundtable was designed to to dissect a statement by a governorship candidate in Lagos State who said during a media interview that he is not proficient in Yoruba and that he does not think in the language either. .
The Acting Director of the Centre, Ahmed Adesanya, noted that issues such as the politician’s claim showed the need for Nigerian society to take the issue of native tongue seriously.
According to him, language is the horse that drives a culture and when a language is lost, the culture is lost and is dead as well.
“I don’t think it is possible for a man not to think in a language, the absence of a language means there is no thought.
“Even when we dream, we dream in a particular language,” he stated.
A linguist, Prof. Harrison Adeniyi, noted that the structure of a language influences a speaker’s worldview and cognition.
“Values and beliefs are embedded in one’s language and it is an innate thing that is transmitted culturally,” he said.
A psychologist, Prof. Kayode Taiwo, described language as an emotional thing and that people relate with others based on what they hear them speak or say.
“A leader can disconnect himself from the people he governs if he can’t speak the language the people understand,” he noted.
Taiwo said while not being able to speak Yoruba might not mean that the said candidate lacks the capacity to lead, he added that the said statement brought out a negative perception of the politician.
Henry Hunjo of the Department of English Language said it is erroneous for people to think that speaking and interacting with their children in their native tongue would not make those children proficient in other foreign languages (s).
Other contributors also appealed to Nigerians to promote their native language, saying no nation can jettison its native tongue and still hopes to excel when development indices are assessed.