Thursday, 14 June 2018

"Indigenous Language , An Active Agent of Development" - Professor Chima Anyadike

By Alabi Aderonke

Languages as reflectors of culture provide the best way to relay stories in their true pictures. These stories shape the individual and collective lives in Africa. As a matter of fact, our actions are the results of stories we tell ourselves and the ones told or written by others about us and our society.

These were the remarks of the newly appointed Professor of Literature-in-English, Professor Chima Anyadike at the 320th inaugural lecture of Obafemi Awolowo University, which held at Oduduwa hall, OAU, on the 12th of June, 2018.  The professor who specialized in African fiction and literature delivered the lecture titled: LIVING OUR STORIES IN AFRICA:  FICTION FICTIONALITY AND THE WISDOM OF UNCERTAINTY.

Professor Anyadike, the literati, remarked that he had once been challenged by a friend why he should be paid for reading and analyzing stories. He further opined that through the reading and study of stories from diverse minds and cultures, people acquire an attitude of mind that creatively responds to the complexity and diversity of human situations.

In his academic research, he worked on fiction and decolonization in Africa. He took a look on how African fictions authors wrote to push for the decolonization of Africans both home and in diaspora. The two leading writers he spoke of were Chinua Achebe who wanted a reformed Africa, and Ngugi Wa who wanted a revolution.

Professor Anyadike emphasized that authentic dialogues should also exist in indigenous language fictional works, which should continuously receive encouragement and active support through government policies. He pointed out that Africans writers are of the view that both  indigenous and foreign language literature should coexist. A Russian philosopher of language, Mikhail Bakhtin stressed the dialogic nature of language such that writing fictions is essentially engaging in language practices. In addition, Andrew Robinson says "... To exist is to engage in dialogue, and dialogue must not ccome to an end... "

Nevertheless, one of the most important reasons why Achebe's fiction will endure has to do with how a genuine dialogue exists, especially in his novels of Igbo traditional life between English and Igbo language and the worldview.

Pinpointing the advantage of indigenous languages in inculcating values and culture, reference was made to the project of Professor Babatunde Aliyu Fafunwa on the use of  indigenous languages in Primary school education which has recorded innumerable success. In the same vein, the use of indigenous language has been a trail for landmark success for most developed countries. The Professor expressed that Japan put up a spirited struggle through vigorous policy implementation to ensure that their youths are educated in indigenous languages,  and that people learnt English only for commercial purpose and not as a lingua franca.

Moreover, the attitudes of educated parents varies from person to person. Some parents encourage the teaching of indigenous languages while some discourage it,  supposedly to prevent a retardation in the acquisition of English language skills. Although such prejudice is not considered for other foreign languages such as French.

Little wonder that the department of African languages and literature in Nigerian and other African Universities are not truly advocating the learning of the local languages. However, African languages such as Yoruba, Hausa, Shona and Swahili are better  taught in the Department of African languages in University of Wisconsin Madison, USA.

He summed up his speech by expressing that the production, reading, teaching and promotion of literary fiction is necessary for our educational development to inculcate open, inclusive, progressive and diverse views of human life. However, the dialogues should be in indigenous African languages because African voices weaken with the polyphony language practice of fiction making in Africa.

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