The theme for the 1st Igbo Conference was Igbo Language & the Diaspora: Prospects and Challenges. It was help on 24th March 2012, at SOAS, University of London.
Spearheaded by Fr Chikwendu Anyanwu (Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria), along with Louisa Egbunike (SOAS), Rev (Dr) Emefiena Ezeani, Mr Godson Echebima, and Dr Ndu Buisi Anike, the first ever Language Conference, which ran from 9.00am -5.00pm comprised of presentations by various dignitaries on different aspects, and challenges facing the Igbo language.
Below are an example of some of the areas that were touched on by some ofthe guest speakers;
Yvonne Mbanefo (Founder of Learn Igbo Now /The New Igbo Dictionary Project)
Topic: Exploring the use of Digital Media to Enhance Igbo Language and Culture Learning [/i]
– Her presentation was an overview of her own personal journey , detailing the various key periods in her life which would later inspire her to set up the Learn Igbo Now CD ROM/Books, as well as the New Igbo Dictionary Project.
– How in the UK she picked up the behaviour of scolding at her daughter in Igbo, yet petting her in English.
– Her disappointment at the lack of Igbo resources in Nigeria, which she was hoping to get for her daughter (aged 2) which led her to start using her skills in IT to supplement her activism in Igbo culture.
– How most Igbo language materials are mainly texted based, and the disadvantages of this
– The impact of the Biafra War on Igbos, i.e. lack of information being passed down from our parents about the war
– Importance of storytelling as a method of learning Igbo.
– Using Digital media: She recorded a 2 minute video on the importance of orji/kola nut to educate her daughter. (her daughter didn’t know the significance of orji until she watched the video)
– New Igbo Dictionary Project (6 months) . Aim of the project to update the Igbo language via collectively creating new words. The project was originally set to run for only 6 months, but has now been extended to November 2012.
– On the New Igbo Dictionary Project Facebook Group (which currently has over 1000 members) people are continually creating, and creating new words, phrases on a daily basis CLICK HERE to checkout the group.
Fr Chikwendu Anyanwu (Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria)
Topic: Igbo Language: In Search of Gatekeepers, Harmony and Direction[i]
– The creation of “Gate keepers” for Igbo language
– Creating a standardised form of written Igbo.
– The problem he faced with the various Igbo states having their own interpretations for various words
Ken Agbugba (Igbo Teaching Initiative /Former Executive member of Igbos)
Topic: Organizing Igbo Language Teaching to Children in the Diaspora[i][/i]
– When he was in Nigeria is cousin would refuse to feed him unless unless he answered in Igbo
– What he done whilst Chairman of Igbos (brought 1 hour of Igbo classes into the monthly gatherings)
– His love for the old Nigerian films (the ones where the actors/actresses speak Igbo)
– He frequent particlaur Nigerian online Forums, and joined a Igbo Room where contributors had to write in Igbo, he was coached by a friend
– The interest in Igbo Language from people from other cultures, Sierra Leonians, people requesting Igbo Gospel Music
– Highligeted how the language issue is prevelant amongst young Igbos born and brought up in Nigeria, (i.e. when he took his children home (ages 5, and 4) they understood Igbo better than their cousins who were living, and were born in Warri, Delta State.)
– In 2010 He attended a Umi Igbo Conference hosted by a Professor Peter who spoke about the death of Igbo language
– After a few more invites to similar discussions, he and a friend set up a 12 week Igbo language course, at his sons primary school hall in Abbey Wood.
DURING THE 12 WEEK IGBO LANGUAGE COURSE
– He had 10 children in his class (ages 4-10)
– He would teach them using roleplaying, folk songs,
– He was not able to continue as he was not able to get enough adults who would have to monitor the children (hall rule)
– Many of the children who attended learned the various greetings, how to make basic sentences, etc
– Lack of support from parents.
– Parents he apporached about the school would complain that teaching them Igbo would affect their English
– Many Igbo business owners would only vocally support the idea.
– 1 Hour a week wasn’t efficient enough.
– Ken was paying for the weekly classes with his own money.
Other presentations that took place that day consisted of
– Mazi Godson Echebima Ahamefula! What is in a Name? The Igbo Experience with Reference to Societal Values and Igbo Cosmology
– Professor Baldwin Anyasodo (Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Nigeria) The Igbo Philosophy of Nkemjika: An Expression of Highly Valued Ownership
– C.O Ibelechie (Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria) Urban Children and the Loss of the Igbo Language: A Redemtive Approach by “Umuaka Igbo Taa” Entertainment Programme.
– Dr Ify Ogbonna (School of Law, Brunel University, London) Importing into and Exporting the Igbo Language: A Survival Proposal
The Conference all round was extremely informative. It was a reality check hearing just how much in danger the language is in, i.e. out dated resources, as well as the lack of a collective solution. However on the plus side it was inspiring to learn about the different methods people are using to combat this issue, i.e. digital media (youtube, songs, etc)
This is the first of many Igbo Langauge Conferences to come.