Just recently, the University of Oxford, England introduced the teaching of the Igbo language as a course in its institution. The University inducted Mr. Emmanuel Ikechukwu Umeonyirioha as the first official Igbo lecturer in the University. The University of Oxford is known to have offered modern languages since 1724 with the Igbo language as its latest entry. Feeling ecstatic, Mr. Emmanuel took to his Twitter page to disclose this groundbreaking achievement.
In his words, “It is official that I am the first official Igbo language lecturer at the number one university in the world, the University of Oxford. Our induction happened today by Mario Sadoux, head of modern language programs, University of Oxford language center. This became possible in the account of the James Currey society. This is the first time the Igbo Language will be taught at the University. History has been made. I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity. I promise to make the Igbo language and culture known to the world”.
Ever since the news broke out, congratulatory messages have been pouring in especially from Nigerians commending Dr. Emmanuel for such a great feat and also acknowledging Oxford University for deeming it fit to add the Igbo language to their special curriculum. The Igbo Language, culture, and tradition seem to be gaining massive recognition lately. A few years ago, BBC worldwide service and BBC Africa became the first international broadcaster to set up an Igbo language service. Also last year the Igbo community recorded a remarkable achievement as the Igbo Apprenticeship system ” Igba Boi” was approved by Harvard Business School London as proposed by erudite Professor Ndubisi Ekekwe. There seems to be no stopping for the Igbo community as some of its sons relentlessly continue to project their culture and tradition on the world map.
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The feeling of knowing that the Igbo language is now being studied at Oxford University is unquantifiable. UNESCO in 2012 predicted that the Igbo Language might become extinct in the next 50 years. This achievement will not only preserve the proposed “dying language” but it will give rise to the Igbo language being spoken in Europe not just by Nigerians In Diaspora but Europeans inclusive. This is indeed a huge step to sustain the dying Igbo Language.
I would not fail to acknowledge the Late Professor Chinua Achebe who through his books projected the Igbo language to the world. He once stated that writing in English, the language of the imperialist conquerors of Nigeria didn’t really pass his message ideally. Achebe’s stated goal was to create a “new” and more African English. He integrated Igbo words and phrases, proverbs, folktales, and other elements of communal storytelling into the narrative to record and preserve African oral traditions and to subvert the colonialist language and culture.
Now that the Igbo Language has gained global recognition, this should be a wake-up call to schools in Nigeria especially those in the Southeast region. There should be proper advocacy to encourage the promotion and speaking of Igbo Language amongst school children. According to research, it states that an average child enters the classroom with about 6,000 vocabularies in their mother tongue. When the child has no background knowledge of the mother’s tongue, proper comprehension of the language can pose a challenge. It is important to note that when a language dies, future generations lose a vital part of the culture that is necessary to fully understand.