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The ROLE of Language in National Unity
Language plays a very important role in any human community – school, company, organization, group, home etc. The language of any human society tells a lot about that society, so it can be further emphasized that language and any human society are inseparable. In any human society, language has a very important place, more than it seems to everyone. The functions of language in any human community include; Expression of ideas, political, administration, education, social, religious, laws etc.
However, we will use Nigeria as a case study. The goal of any human community is to have peace and unity, many nations in the world today are facing various levels of conflicts and Nigeria is unfortunately one of such countries. This paper is designed to examine the role of language in achieving national integration in Nigeria. In the past people have expressed their various opinions about the meaning of language.
One of my lecturers, Professor Fakude. G. Said and I quote, “Language is the faithful mirror of society” In other words language reflects the true nature of any society. This means that what language means in any society is to reflect to the world what that society is. Therefore the language of any society must give us a perfect knowledge of what that society is about; Culture, beliefs, dress code, marriage and every other socio-linguistic information about society. Like flag, national anthem, currency etc. language should be seen as a symbol of nation, in other words, language is a window through which people can see into the society.
As Bamgbose observes, English is the language of integration in Nigeria, in the complexities of Nigeria especially in relation to the language question, English is the only language that represents a sense of integration. This clearly shows that so far in Nigeria, the English language has played a very important role in holding Nigeria together as a united nation. Despite our cultural diversity and differences in beliefs, the English language has still played a major role in keeping Nigeria together, and with the connections between the various ethnic groups that exist in Nigeria, the English language cannot do more to keep us together. Out of the more than 500 languages we have in Nigeria, we still have a link and that link is none other than English, which has served as a medium of communication between the various tribes in Nigeria.
Of all the legacies left by the British in Nigeria at the end of colonial administration, perhaps none is more important than the English language. It is now the language of internal as well as external communications in government, business and commerce, education, mass media, literature and more. Bamgbose (1971)
As a language of wide communication (LWC), English is used among various linguistic groups in Nigeria for phatic communion, formal purposes and means of record-keeping, information dissemination, self-experimentation and embodiment of thought. English provides the common linguistic basis necessary for the existence of any nation. So since English is the common language of all ethnic groups, the collective feeling of belonging together despite individual or ethnic differences is false.
It is evident from this that the language that has largely held Nigeria together to date is the English language that was handed down to us by our colonial masters and has played that role well until now. Our official day-to-day communication has greatly enhanced the relationship between the various ethnic groups that we have in Nigeria. An Igbo man who has never been to the west of the country or has no understanding of Yoruba in such a situation will surely see English as the best medium to express his feelings, thoughts or whatever he wants to say.
Language is another area that holds us together in Nigeria which is education, this is because it has greatly helped in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the less privileged. So we have English as a link between the upper-class and the lower-class in Nigeria.
In religion, in various religious gatherings, the important role of language can never be overemphasized; English has served as a medium of communication thus bringing people together under one umbrella. Many religious gatherings in Nigeria either use English to conduct the proceedings and of course they have contributed significantly to peaceful co-existence in our beloved country. Although, we have had various religious controversies and sometimes a conflict.
As we have pointed out earlier the various roles of English in achieving and maintaining national integration, I think it would have been better if the vernacular had played the role that English has played so far, which is not the intention. Or trying to disrespect the English language has contributed greatly to the national unity of Nigeria. But I am sure that the situation would have been better if that place had actually been occupied by our language; If language had become domesticated.
Misrepresentation and misrepresentation of ideas is a major cause of world-wide conflict today that arises from the use of words/pronunciations, where the intended ideas are misrepresented. You can never reach the level of fluency a native speaker has in their language, and for many people they never bargained for it, sending many to their untimely graves. A man’s language is seen as a tool that helps him express his thoughts unfortunately using another man’s language which is his L2; He succeeds in misrepresenting his ideas. In that case he uses a word out of context and some people can be so sensitive about the use of words. Had our official language been a vernacular, many conflicts and communal disputes of the past could have been avoided. This is because many have verbally misrepresented their ideas, thoughts and intentions due to their low level of proficiency, they have chosen the wrong word at the wrong time and this has led to sad testimonies. We have chosen English as our ‘day-to-day official language’ of operations and activities and this has led to a situation where our local languages have taken a back seat. English language is the key to any important door, no one can communicate in English. Language is expected to play an important role in any organization.
The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language (Encyclopedic Edition), definition of language, the expression and communication of feelings or ideas in humans by means of speech and hearing, spoken or heard sounds systematized and confirmed by their use. Given to people in a given period of time.” The above view suggests that a language is supposed to communicate internal (original) ideas and express what is inside a particular speaker. But this is not always the case where the particular speaker is using the language as a medium of communication. Not proficient in the language For example, a Hausa man who wants to communicate with a Yoruba or Igbo man may have to use English where his proficiency is low compared to his L1 there is a possibility that such a person may misrepresent some of his intentions during communication and not be able to do so from other parts. y and there can be conflict between them. Can one say that language could play its role well then? It definitely did not justify the meaning of language and the essence of communication.
The manner in which a particular thought is expressed during communication is very important; So the essence of any communication is to accurately convey the ideas within the speaker. Many Nigerians think in their MT and try to communicate their intentions in English and in some cases the ideas are expressed incorrectly, they don’t have the right word to represent their thoughts. The situation is not the same when the interlocutors are from the same ethnic background and both have adequate knowledge of the language.
Where there is a common language background and good understanding (and accurate decoding of ideas), our level of conflict in Nigeria will be reduced. We can make our version of the English language, Pidgin English. I believe this will go a long way in reducing the level of recurring conflict in our beloved country Nigeria. Because most of these conflicts are rooted in our various ideas being expressed or interpreted incorrectly, I think we need to find a better way to communicate and that’s where everyone plays their part. You should start to find a better way to express yourself and avoid unnecessary conflict by using a language that you do not reach an encouraging level of proficiency and work on your communication skills.
For this, let the federal government consult a language expert on how to achieve this goal and give full attention to this course. Let’s all well-meaning Nigerians come together and see how we can explore and exploit the wealth of our language as we move towards national unity. And explain to every Nigerian that language can play a greater role in communication. Let us review our language policy in other respects too, let us avoid the death of our symbol.
It is urgent for us to see language as an important agent of unity in our beloved country, Nigeria, and see how we can use this tool as an agent of unity to make Nigeria a more united country and move beyond all ethnic and racial lines. Tribal differences. Language is a tool that can be used in our quest for national unity and should be treated with full commitment and seriousness. Every Nigerian should start thinking and see how language can contribute to the growth of Africa’s giant.
Our culture is rooted in our language. Let us embrace our language with enthusiasm and pride and promote what we have in common, and then our differences will be a thing of the past. This is a call for national unity but this time it is coming through an unpopular medium, let us use this precious tool of ours for one Nigeria. Language plays a very important role in our quest for national unity. Let’s embrace football the way we embrace it. Language plays an important role in our quest for national unity.
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