(147): Dear Arewa Youth, Learn English
I initially posted this on Facebook. I believe it should be here for other people outside Facebook. Enjoy!
We must address this weak argument that no country develops using a foreign language. Frankly, it is doing more harm than good to us. So many people bring it up as their reason to not learn English or respect this essential language entirely. Eventually, many people miss several opportunities within and, especially, outside Nigeria due to their lack of English language skills.
Nigeria was colonised. Like many other former colonies, Nigeria is a multilingual country. However, unlike Europe (Germans speak German; French people speak French; Italians have Italian, etc.), most former colonies comprise speakers of several languages, making it challenging to elevate one above others without others crying for discrimination, marginalisation, etc. I know that Tanzania, among a few others, succeeds with Swahili. :)
The last time I checked, India had more English speakers than the United States. Even China has more users of English than the United Kingdom. So, learning or using a foreign language doesn't necessarily hinder development.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand have their indigenous languages. Embracing English (and French in the case of Canada) did not stop them from developing. Today in The Netherlands and Nordic countries (in Europe), English is a lingua franca. They often use the language for even official dealings, as is also the case in Singapore. They are developed countries.
The examples are numerous. I wrote about the place of English in Germany before. I still struggle to speak German. However, I have always used English at my workplace (for teaching and research) and elsewhere. Could I have even got the job in the first place without English?
Folks, English is learnable. If our Southern (Nigerian) counterparts can do it and still progress, at least better than us in the North, why can't we? Look at Lagos today. Look at Nollywood. Look at southern musicians, skit makers, startups, etc. Come on!
Needless to say, I am very proud of my Hausa identity. I feed on it and provide for many others - Alhamdulillah. However, I will continue encouraging people to learn English - in addition to their other skills and businesses. Doing that opens doors of possibilities and opportunities for us.
May Allah bless our lives all the more, amin.
Muhsin Ibrahim, PhD