Book Review: Learning Nigerian Languages In A Flash

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By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

WaZoBia @Your Fingertips by Modupe Odeniyi-Ogbuanoh; Ginja Media Ltd., Lagos, Abuja; 2017; 98pp

Nigerians talk to each other in the colonial language of English. Even people from the same ethnic group are somewhat caught up in this trap. As if to cap it all up, the children of today can no longer speak the language of their parents. It is against this unfortunate background that the newly-published 98-page book WaZoBia @ Your Fingertips by Modupe Odeniyi-Ogbuanoh comes highly recommended. For starters, Nigerians across the many states can now learn the major languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba on a foundational note.

The book presents itself as “an easy to read handbook for learning any of Nigeria’s three major languages. It presents simple words, phrases, numbers, animals, days of the week in a side-by-side translation into English and the three main tongues. There is even a section on common idioms and sentences for you to provoke interest and discussion among your friends! This book is a delight to every who is enthusiastic about mother tongue.”

The National Vice-President, South-west Zone Non-Governmental Association for Literacy Services, Mike Alatishe, Ph.D, pens the Foreword thusly: “This learner’s handbook is a firsthand resource material written to help and expose non-literate adults and youth with a view to providing a full basic literacy foundation both in English and in the three major languages in Nigeria. The author, Modupe Ogbuanoh’s simple, systematic presentation provides an easy means to grasp basic knowledge in the learner’s original language and yet grow in English language ability. It, therefore, gives the learner a sound basic knowledge of the other major languages. The use of descriptive images will provoke the earner’s quick understanding of alphabet composition words and phrases. Therefore, I recommend this book as a good material for use in the eradication of illiteracy in Nigeria, especially in the pursuit of basic literacy in the formal school system and also in non-formal education in Nigeria.”

The author understands Nigeria as “a heterogeneous society populated by various ethnic groups, languages, culture, tradition and different ways of life and religious beliefs.” According to Mrs. Ogbuanoh, “There are some 250 languages, of which Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are the major three. It is the appreciation of this fact that brought about the writing of this book, WaZoBia at Your Fingertips!” In her submission, “The term Wazobia is a synchresis of the English word ‘come,’ in the three major languages. Come means Wa in Yoruba, Zo in Hausa and Bia in Igbo.” Of course she points out that writing on only the three major languages “is not an attempt to portray the other Nigerian languages as unimportant but only an appreciation of the three most spoken languages given the limited resources and the experience of the author.”

Being a Yoruba who grew up in the Hausa North and married to a man from the South-South, the author learnt along the line “that people appreciate it and even respect your own language when you understand their language.” This book will indeed go a long way in building bonds across ethnic divides, thus lending meaning to the drive towards the clarion call for One Nigeria.

While I am not adequately armed to undertake a proper assessment of the Hausa and Yoruba translations in Wazobia @ Your Fingertips, I believe I can adequately look into the Igbo translations. There is an obvious error on page 46 where “Their husband” is translated as “Ha di” instead of “Di ha”. The issue of diverse Igbo dialects becomes the issue on page 61 where “Lizard” is translated as “Ugwere” instead of the more widespread “Ngwere”. The controversy on the proper Igbo word for “Lion” rears up on page 60 as “Odum” is chosen in place of “Agu”.

It is hoped that in future editions of WaZoBia @ Your Fingertips all the controversies and errors can be cleared up. This is a very important book that every Nigerian should own.

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