Igbo is one of Nigeria's three major languages, with Hausa and Yoruba being the other two. It is spoken by a population of between 20 and 25 million people. Igbo is taught, learnt and examined in Igbo as a first language from the primary school level to the tertiary level of education. Books on diverse subjects (including literary works) have been written in the language. In recent times, however, several developments (such as dwindling interest in the language as a first language, declining population of students who apply to take degree or certificate programmes in the language, non-accreditation of the language by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in some universities, and language attitude problems) have prompted some researchers to associate the Igbo situation with language endangerment. The present study sets out to investigate the true position of the Igbo language with respect to language endangerment.
In Nigeria, English is generally perceived as a dominant language. The dream of “one north” makes Hausa a lingua franca in northern Nigeria, with the potential of annihilating the over 200 indigenous languages spoken in that region. However, the increasing wave of ethnic consciousness as well as the ongoing agitations for the rights of minority languages have raised questions on the continued domination of minority languages by Hausa and English. Using data from a language-use questionnaire among northern and southern minority language speakers, the study shows that Hausa and English are fast replacing minority mother tongues in informal domains and situational contexts which are expected to be dominated by mother tongues.
In spite of being home to many treasured raw materials and natural resources, West Africa harbors some of the poorest countries in the world. In fact, about half of the poorest countries in Africa are located in West Africa, and most of her citizens are afflicted by poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy. Several economic intervention schemes by international financial institutions (such as the World Bank, IMF, ADB) have failed because of a lack of understanding and interpreting of such schemes by a majority of West Africans. Although indigenous West African languages have been central to the processes of production and distribution in the informal sector of the economy, they are excluded in the formal economy. Even more fundamentally problematic is that knowledge and skills are almost exclusively imparted in European languages. The continued use of the ex-colonial languages (namely, English, French and Portuguese in the formal economy, which are understood by less than 20 percent of the population), amounts to economic exclusion for the majority of the people. Since language capital itself is an economic resource that can be harnessed to provide employment opportunities particularly for translators, interpreters, teachers and publishers, there is a need for the development of the indigenous language capital in order to spread resources beyond the few West Africans who are literate in the ex-colonial languages. The present study highlights the role of micro language planning in poverty alleviation within the West African sub-region through the development of the indigenous language capital and the reduction of illiteracy and disease. It does this against the backdrop of the Millennium Development Goals.