Nigeria’s film industry is the largest in Africa and the third largest in the world. The industry is using its weight to support the development of local languages in the country, this comes after the Nigerian Minister of State for Education said the native languages could become extinct.
Over 500 languages have been spoken in Nigeria but at least nine of them are now extinct and many more are endangered, and despite being one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, English was chosen as the official language to maintain the countries unity.
Even the world is feeling the rapid shrinkage of local languages and dialects, prompting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to dedicate a special day last month to make people conscious of the need to preserve them.
This is one of the many efforts by the country to keep its many languages alive; recently Nigerian born Adebunmi Adeniran designed a mobile keyboard that can be used to write up to 12 of the country’s indigenous languages.
Economists suggest that Nigeria’s entertainment industry may the way to diversify promote diversity and remedy the issue.
“There were Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, even Swahili films nominated, I think it’s wonderful, it shows that there is a huge demand for films that are in indigenous languages and we just need to develop more of the content for that,” said Nollywood Actress, Ego Boyo.
CNBC Africa spoke to actors, actresses and producers at the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards 2016 where they all agreed with the sentiment and explained why the languages arent being spoken anymore.
“Our indigenous culture, it’s so great and it is so healthy and it is so rich and I think we are overlooking it a lot, some people have managed to keep at it and are dogged in indigenous production,” said Katherine Obiang, Nollywood actress.
Bob-Manuel Udokwu, Nollywood actor reckons the problem boils down to one issue he calls “hangover of colonialism”.
“When we were colonised by the British, they brought their own way of life and made Africans believe that our own way of life is inferior and for some people it got into the psyche and they believe that for you to show that you are at par with the West is for you to speak their language and act in a certain manner,” he said.
Read more on what the Nollywood stars had to say:
Rita Dominic, Nollywood Actress –
“We have to project our culture and to project our culture is better done through our language because it comes across as very believable and when it is believable, people that are watching it, they can buy into it and when they buy into it they want to be a part of that thing.”
Funke Akindele, Nollywood Actress –
“The most important one is parents believing that English language is better, it’s the primary language that a child has to speak – yes it is universal but I think being able to speak your language is very very important, celebrate your culture.”
Katherine Obiang, Nollywood Actress –
“Whether it is theatre, whether it is film but I think we should pay more attention to that because that is where it lies after all we watch movies from different parts of Africa that are subtitled in English — the common language that everybody understands, so I think that should be looked into.”
“They feel that speaking a local language is kind of selling yourself short or making yourself look local.”
Bob-Manuel Udokwu, Nollywood Actor –
“I think it needs to start with the parents, it’s from the home, because already our national lingua franca is English, so every child that goes to school will learn how to speak English – but before going to school, a child is sitting at home with a parents and parents themselves should be able to make conversation at home and when they do that effectively, children will listen.”