NIGERIA'S 521 LANGUAGES AND THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
In this present time, and in the face of different ethnic tensions plaguing our nation, many Nigerians are asking themselves an important question: what is the value of our many languages? They want to know how it can put food on the table of the average Nigerian. When I posted on The Green Heritage Facebook page, last year, that Nigeria has the third highest number of languages in the world (after Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) and that her languages account for seven percent of the world total, many Nigerians sharply criticised the post, insisting that there is nothing to be proud of in having many languages. The same reaction was elicited when I posted on the page that Taraba state has more languages than thirty African countries. In discussions I have had with friends, many have argued that Nigeria's many languages do her no good but instead are the cause of the constant ethnic strife, poverty, backwardness and disunity that plague our nation.
Still, many will agree that language is the vehicle of culture, and that it is a core part of a people's identity. It is through language that the wisdom, achievements and values of a community are passed down from one generation to another. Our nation might be 53 years old, going by independence, and 99 years old by amalgamation, but this does not preclude the fact that the various languages of Nigeria, over hundreds of years, have birthed a wealth of knowledge and cultures whose value, now and tomorrow, we can't afford to rob ourselves of.
Look at Australia which has, according to ethnologue, 241 indigenous languages. Australia knows the value of its diverse linguistic heritage even though it is highly developed, as the 2013 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) clearly shows. In that report, Australia came second after Norway in the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings of...
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