Who is to Blame for my Inability to Speak my Native Language? by Gracious Ogoun

Speaking the English language wasn’t a problem for any of us. We grew up feeling really comfortable speaking the language, and we did speak it well.

But there were times my mum would say things in another language, we didn’t bother to listen, because it wasn’t what we knew. At other times dad’s siblings will come around and when they get talking, the strange language comes up again. I felt they were just mumbling words. In school, I heard those strange mumbled words too. My curiosity wouldn’t let me be, what was this everyone was speaking that I couldn’t?

When I made my finding, I got to know it was something called a native language. It is said that as long as you belong to a particular tribe it was important you understand the language they use in communication. But I was still curious, because dad’s language was quite different from that of mum and so was the rest of my classmates. I got stuck, it was confusing as I tried to understand mum’s native language, understand dad’s and those of people around me, because communication wouldn’t be effective if I couldn’t relate with people around me.

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I tried, but the more I tried, the more confusing it was. The English language was my only saviour at this point, as it was easy to communicate with everyone in this language. It wasn’t so much of a bother to my parents, cos they felt I would learn my native language as time went on. But instead, I started to learn that of my environment, and it felt good that I could speak something different from the regular English, I guess I felt too comfortable in it and grew that way.

Being an adult and trying to communicate with extended family became an issue, as they intentionally speak the native language to me, making me struggle in my head to get what it was they were saying, no one was standing up for me and saying “she’s still a kid, she’ll learn it with time” as they said there wasn’t time anymore.

They consciously say “why don’t you understand at least one of your parents’ native language?” It wasn’t my fault I’ll say, my parents didn’t speak the languages to me, but my environment did speak theirs to me, and that I learnt.

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I’m all grown up now, and my native language becomes a yardstick to getting certain things, as no knowledge of my native language becomes a hindrance. There was a time I was to get my Local Government Identification Card, and I couldn’t get that because I couldn’t communicate in my native language. “How is that my fault?” I asked. Nobody seemed to be interested in that question. I was told that having to understand my native language was my only pass to getting it.

Thank God for my uncle that came to my rescue. Now that was my dad’s native language. Unfortunately, for people like us that have our parents from different tribes, are we supposed to know both their native languages? Why? There were instances where I try conversing with my grandparents and they get into the language thingy and my intelligent self gets numb.

While in the higher institution, when I get asked where I’m from, I find myself joggling between words to choose a place, could I just claim to be from the people whose native language I understood? Cos I was getting tired of the whole “why don’t you understand your native language?” And I get responses like “are you sure you’ll get married at all?” How has my ability to speak a language become a reason to get a suitor.

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In the end, I personally feel that as important as our native language is to every tribe, being able to communicate effectively, pass a message even to the layman, then communication is effective.

In my case, who’s to be blamed? Myself for not learning to speak my native language(s)? Or my parents for not teaching me?

Victor Ugoo Njoku

I am human. I love life. I learn as much as I can every day and share the knowledge on my blog.

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