Experts advise Nigeria to follow China’s lead in saving indigenous languages

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By Sarafina Christopher and Eletta Mercy

Hon. James Sule, the Permanent Secretary of The Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy, has appealed to Nigerian stakeholders to emulate China’s efforts in language preservation to prevent indigenous languages form extinction.

Sule made the appeal during an interview on the sidelines of the International Chinese Language Day organised by the China Cultural Center in Abuja.

He emphasised the importance of protecting and revitalizing the approximately 512 languages spoken across the 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Sule highlighted China’s proactive measures, such as establishing language schools, cultural centers, and incorporating indigenous languages into educational programs, as a model that Nigerian policymakers should adopt.

He stressed that native languages in Nigeria were facing a rapid decline among the younger generation.

Sule proposed introducing language instruction for all regions to ensure the preservation and transmission of these languages for future generations.

“Nigeria indigenous language is fast dying and we need to join all hands on deck to prevent it through sensitisation.

“We realize that the younger generation are no longer familiar with their indigenous languages so we need to have a curriculum where we teach every geopolitical zone the languages that are there.

“I believe that introducing language instruction for all regions will ensure the preservation and transmission of these languages for future generations, “he said.

Mr. Li Xuda, the Director of the China Cultural Centre in Nigeria, emphasised the cultural significance of language as a fundamental aspect of human civilization and identity.

“For example, the China Cultural Centre in Nigeria has been teaching Chinese for over 10 years since its establishment in 2013.

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“Many friends living or working in Abuja find their chances to learn Chinese here in our cultural center,” he said.

He praised Nigeria’s diverse linguistic landscape, highlighting languages like Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba as vital components of global culture.

“In my eyes, Nigeria is the cradle of African Civilisation with about 250 ethnic groups and 500 languages, including Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba.

“While we celebrate “International Chinese Language Day’”, never forget to celebrate Nigeria’s amazing languages, which are definitely important parts of world culture,” he said.

Li also underscored the importance of investing in language preservation initiatives and promoting bilingual education to foster a society that values and embraces its linguistic diversity.

Similarly, Mr. Ahmed Sodangi, the Director-General of the National Gallery of Art, commended China’s dedication to language preservation, leading to the United Nations’ recognition of the International Chinese Language Day.

He suggested that Nigeria should adopt comparable strategies to safeguard its linguistic heritage, given its rich tapestry of languages and cultures.

“We want to urge the government to establish days to celebrate the various languages across Nigeria’s diverse communities, emphasising the crucial role of families and educational institutions in preserving indigenous languages for posterity.

“We should also embed it in our homes. Every parent should take responsibility in teaching their children their indigenous languages and the school systems too so that our students can understand the basics.

“As efforts to save indigenous languages intensify, Nigeria can look into initiatives like those in China for guidance to ensure the continuity and vibrancy of its linguistic heritage,”Sodangi said.(NAN)

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Edited by Halima Sheji

Philip Daniel Yatai

Principal Correspondent, NAN Abuja

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