Nigerian Iconoclast and global thought Leader, Olakunle Soriyan has called on Africans to put a stop to the use of English language as a measure of people’s intelligence and progress; a practice which has affected the dreams of many young Africans who are genuinely talented but are denied opportunities due to their inability to defend their potentials with a foreign language.
In a recent interview, he said that, “globally, there is no language that is a standard or determinant of progress… The English language should not be a determinant of progress in our own country. It is not our fault that we have our language.” He added that, “anytime you ignore the gift of nature (which in this case is native language), you embrace another fabric that in itself is artificial and cannot define your originality, your authenticity and your strength.”
Speaking on how other countries protect their native languages, Olakunle revealed that “when you go to the United Nations, you see people who can speak English refusing to speak English, insisting on speaking their mother tongue and the United Nations will spend our own money to pay for interpreters (to) help everybody to understand what they are saying.”
He added that there is a need for a different kind of orientation to change how Africans judge other Africans who struggle with the English language. He referenced the case of Clemence Westerhoff, a Dutchman considered to be one of the best managers of the Nigerian football team. During his stay in Nigeria, Clemence could barely speak good English. He could not make a single statement without grammatical flaws; however, the players understood him, the locals accepted him and he did well regardless.
On a more different note, he decried the self-loathing attitude with which Africans heavily troll their fellows for bad English but accept the same errors from foreigners. He further argued that bad English is not a proof of intelligence, it does not define the strength of one’s character and it does not show the credibility of one’s decency. “People who observe me must have another kind of education that allows them to move beyond the limits of the container which is what the tongue can do,” he said.
The Iconoclast believed strongly that the success of the first world countries stems from their focus on some key subject areas and also teaching and learning such in their native languages. He noted that the likes of the Chinese, Americans, Germans etc have learned four subjects in their native language.
“They’ve learnt Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. Those four subjects make everything in the world… every other subject is either selling what they make, distributing it, protecting it or doing something…The idea is that, because they learnt those subjects in their native language, I believe it aids comprehension,” he said.
Olakunle who held the view that, there is a possible element of neocolonialism in the existence and compulsory use of foreign languages in Africa asked the following questions: “Why are the richest nations in the world, the first world countries in the world; why are these nations all speaking their native languages? Why is it that, lingua franca only exists in third world nations and nations that are colonized? Is it not looking more and more like an agenda to keep us small?”
Speaking on the way forward premised on the reality of language diversity in Africa, he suggested that, since the English language has already been used as a common language for many years, it can remain in use for communication whilst a more liberal system is adopted to allow Africans to teach, learn and express themselves in their native languages. “I’m not saying they should take it (English) away. I am saying that it is overrated.” He said. According to his explanation, this will strip English off the sole right to determine people’s intelligence and progress