By Rev. Fr. Eustace Nwanekwu
Our Lord Jesus, in addressing his disciples said: which of you here, intending to build a house, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying, here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish (Lk. 14:28-30).
Just as you can’t build a house without a strong foundation, the Archdiocese of Owerri wouldn’t have remained stronger today if not for the labours of our heroes past. Sixty-eight years since the establishment of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, God in his wisdom and magnanimity is still handling the steering and our Sweet Mother Maria Assumpta in her nature has never abandoned those who fly under her patronage. Similarly, you can’t become a well-rounded speaker of a language including Igbo language without building upon the four foundational skills of language learning.
In the year 2012, United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) predicted that “half of the 7000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of the century”. It predicted that Igbo language will become extinct by 2025 if nothing was done to save it. Thanks to the metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri Catholic Province and the Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace Most Rev. A. J. V. Obinna the linguistic prophet of our time who has remained undauted unshakeable and faithful to the promotion of our indigenous language among generations of people who prefer language of foreigners to their own dialects and as a result, many dialects are not spoken publicly with boldness because some adherents feel ashamed to be identified with their local dialects.
Annually, this linguistic prophet of our time His Grace Most Rev. A. J. V. Obinna with other learned men and women bring out a particular topic to help address the current challenges towards Igbo language. This year’s 2018 Owerri Archdiocesan Day Celebration is coming with exceptional features as the Odenigbo crew led by His Grace Most Rev. A. J. V. Obinna is dealing with our present day challenges facing Igbo language: speaking, writing and reading of Igbo language, Its prospects and challenges.
During my days in the primary school, Igbo language was seen as a taboo and usually the culprit goes home with bruised buttocks and bodies because they are mercilessly dealt with, and in some schools they are forced to pay fines for speaking their mother tongue. I remembered those days during our morning classes, one of our classmates in the bid to speak English said: “Aunty, shit dey hungry me” Nshi naa gum but the right way to say this should have been “Aunty achorom iga n’ulo mkpa. This year’s topic is a dream and important as it addresses the foundational skills in order to promote the Igbo language.
There are four basic cornerstones of learning a language. They are: Reading, writing, listening and speaking. These skills compliment each other as Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. To learn or master any language, you must go through these four basic skills. These skills work in pairs: consuming and producing. Thus, when you are reading or listening to Igbo language, you are consuming it and when you are writing or speaking the Igbo language you have become a producer. If these skills are mastered then the individual becomes fluent in that language and can boast of knowing it.
- Reading skills: this is the first step in the course of learning any language. Reading will not only help you to learn the new language but will also help you to discover the culture behind the language. Some helpful reading resources include picture or comic books, a pocket notebook, newspapers or online journals etc.
- Writing skills: The readings having been done, one gets to the stage of creative thinking. Here you are encouraged to sit down, discipline yourself and do some script writing. Both reading and writing can be carried out in paripasu. The writing skills can be improved by jotting certain difficult words and setting for yourself a daily goal.
- Speaking skills: This can be called the skills of doom because it is the most scary but the most effective in improving your language skills. It is possible to learn a language for years without speaking it. To improve your speaking skills you must find a language teacher and a conversation partner either within your area or online.
- Listening skills: This is the hardest skill in the course of learning a language because one might fall into the pattern of passive learning i.e words flowing in and out of your ears and brain. You need to study what you are listening to. Some listening resources include audio books, music, movies and podcasts. To improve your listening skills use short and simple audio records, being attentive in listening, jotting down some difficult words and following an audio course.
The Archdiocesan Day is celebrated annually on the first Saturday in September to mark the elevation of His Grace Most Rev. A. J. V. Obinna as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province comprising Owerri, Orlu, Umuahia, Ahiara, Okigwe and Aba. It was on the 26th of March 1994, that His Holiness Pope John Paul II (now a saint) raised Owerri Diocese established in 1950 to an Archdiocese, making it at the same time the Metropolitan see of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province. Thus His Grace Most Rev. A. J. V. Obinna became the first Archbishop of Owerri and head of Owerri Ecclesiastical province.
As we mark the 25 years silver jubilee of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri with this 23rd edition of the Odenigbo lecture series, our heart are filled with joy as we express with nostalgia God’s faithfulness and love in our Archdiocese as regards the huge success recorded so far. The Archdiocese has over 1, 049, 213 Catholics in more than 140 parishes. Our blessings are boundless as we thank God for over 329 Diocesan priests excluding religious, missionaries, seminarians and aspirants
Hence, as the Odenigbo gong echoes once again, as the Odenigbo gong this year 2018 through the golden voice of Professor Mrs. Patricia Uloaku Okoye, we encourage the government (especially the Forum of South Eastern Governors), Senators, priests, pastors, religious men and women, parents, teachers, children, all and sundry to embrace our maternal language with total commitment and love. As we converge at the Odenigbo arena for this year’s celebration, may the sweetness of our Igbo language inspire us all to start speaking, writing, reading and listening to our language!
Long live the Igbo language
Long live the catholic Archdiocese of Owerri
Long live His Grace A. J. V Obinna the founder of Odenigbo Lecture.