Varsity teacher urges evolution of indigenous language policy


Dr. Akinloye Ojo

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia, Atlanta, United States, Dr. Akinloye Ojo, has canvassed prompt revision, adequate development and better implementation of Nigeria’s national language policy, in order to confer the much-needed global recognition on our indigenous languages.

Already, Yoruba and Hausa languages, he said, were gaining increasing recognition in the areas of teaching and learning in many American and European universities, and have potentials that could be explored for more international exchange learning programmes.

Ojo made the call at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, while delivering the Faculty of Arts Special Lecture, which was titled, “Pedagogy of Yoruba Language in the United States of America: Retrospect, Prospects and Lessons for Nigeria.”

The university lecturer, who has taught Yoruba language and culture in six American universities over the last 22 years, informed that Yoruba language was assuming greater socio-linguistic and socio-cultural functions at home, within the West African sub-region, Europe, the Americas and in the Caribbean.

The academic, who described Yoruba language as one of the fastest growing languages in the U.S., called on the Nigerian government to evolve a clearly defined indigenous language policy to further give Nigerian local languages more global recognition.

Ojo, who said, “Yoruba is acquiring new speakers at various proficiency levels at an all-time high across the world,” drew the attention of policy makers to the economic, social and security implications of neglecting the language.

He disclosed that in the U.S. cases have been delayed in courts for several months, even years, if there were no translators for specific languages of contending parties.

Ojo, who is also the Director of African Studies Institute at the University of Georgia, informed that the United States government was investing hugely in the study of African languages, especially Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa and another Congolese language, and has established national resource centres across the country, for the study of these languages.

The university don therefore urged education policy makers in the country to consider making proficiency in a Nigerian language, other than the student’s mother tongue, a requirement for graduation at the undergraduate level.

The guest lecturer canvassed a plan that would mandate students to complete certain number of hours in a Nigerian language other than their mother tongues.

According to him, the new language policy should promote economic investment in language education and the teaching and learning of Yoruba language for instance.

He explained that a lot of works have been done, which students and prospective students and other users were unaware of, thus making investment in the study and learning of the language unattractive.

While pointing out that many US embassies in Africa have Yoruba translators, he stressed that graduates of the language could be gainfully employed at foreign missions and all offices where human movements were high like the Nigerian Custom Services, in the aviation and security sectors.

We need them in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) too to develop software, keyboards etc…our indigenous knowledge system is best expressed in Yoruba and scholars on the continent and tit the Diaspora must work to enhance the visibility of the language.”

While declaring the lecture open, the school’s Director of the Centre for Research Development and In-House Training (CREDIT), Prof (Mrs.) Temidayo Oladiji, who stood in for the vice chancellor said, “The issue of internationalisation of our activities in this University is very dear to the vice chancellor and current efforts in this regard cannot go unnoticed.” Prof. Oladiji explained that the university was engaging contemporaries in other places because that approach remains the best way to fast-track and jump-start research capabilities.

Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Ayobami Akinwale, called on those who are of the view that Yoruba language was not worth learning or studying to have a rethink, especially with the submission of a visiting Yoruba professor. Prof. Akinwale further disclosed that the University of Ilorin had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Georgia.

The MoU, he said would open opportunities for staff and students of the university, particularly those from the Faculty of Arts to go on exchange programmes to the States and vice versa.

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