[B] Is Guosa Nigeria’s long-awaited indigenous lingua franca?[/B]
By IKEOGU OKE
Sunday, December 24, 2006
It began like a child’s play in 1965. Forty-one years later, the dream is within the realms of possibility. Alex Igbineweka, who evolved the new language, Guosa, believes that there is no need searching for an indigenous Nigerian Nigeria lingua franca when Guosa has all it takes to be just that.
Before the first utterance of Guosa was made in 1965, there was an agitation in Nigeria to have common languages for communication by all the ethnic groups after the 1960 political independence from Britain.
That led to the approval of nine Nigerian languages, including Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Fulfude, Efik, Izon, etc., by the government for media broadcast. As a young boy growing up in Nigeria then, Igbineweka was fascinated by the variety of languages in the country he was listening to on the TV. Out of curiosity, he began to acquire the various vocabulary structures.
An indigene of Edo State with Edo language as his mother tongue, when Igbineweka migrated to Enugu in the early 1960s, something amazing happened. He was set out to learn Igbo language, but found himself interlarding it with Edo language.
“I was unable to speak Igbo fluently, neither could I speak Edo fluently; I was missing them up,” he told Sunday Sun on recent visit to Nigeria from his base in the US.
In 1964, he told his family that he would like to be identified as somebody who would evolve a new language, but they made a jest of him, telling him to have a better dream. In 1965, when he came to Lagos to settle, his attempt to learn and speak Yoruba was similar to his experience with Igbo in Enugu. “I found myself mixing Yoruba with English. That was unusual, because for many people, it was common to mix Edo with English, but, in my own case, I was mixing Edo with Yoruba.”
Of course, that was a telltale sign that he was cut out to evolve a new language. The heartwarming piece of news is that Guosa is now an international language and has gradually spread its tentacles in international academic institutions worldwide. The American Heritage University in Southern California, for example, has adopted it as a subject.
Right now, anybody can apply to study Guosa language in the university and the university is ready to endow the language for research. Interestingly, West Contra Costa Unified School District Adult Education Dept, California, has included the language into its school syllabus. In both schools, Igbineweka teaches the language to students and the schools take enrollment fees from the students who study it.
Is it not surprising that while Guosa is making inroad into America education system, the reverse is the case in Nigeria? Igbineweka told Sunday Sun that when he first evolved the language in Nigeria, he tried all his best to get the Ministry of Education to support it, but instead of commendations, his initiative was criticized for lacking relevant parts of speech. He was disappointed in the position of the ministry, because it is not proper to use anglophone language to judge an African language.
“In the west, once you create something new, they encourage you, but here, they discourage you,” he lamented, adding that such a thing contributes to brain drain in the country.
Before travelling to the United States, he had worked extensively on the structure of the language, little wonder that he did not find it difficult to get the approval of the American authorities. What’s more, the language now has a dictionary. It took him nine years to write the dictionary of Guosa language vocabulary (about forty thousand words).
One of the problems of Nigeria, he said, is the multiple language we have, but experience has shown that any country that wants to be formidable and stay together must have one language. The leading countries of America, Europe and Asia are examples. Thus, he recommends Guosa language as Nigeria’s lingua franca.
Already there are indications that language would be acceptable by Nigerians. On November 23, 2006, it had its first trial in the country at the Training College, Moson College, Festac Town, Lagos, with thirty students. “The students were highly motivated,” he enthused.
He is, therefore, calling on the National Council for Arts and Culture and other relevant agencies to collaborate with him to realize the dream of having an “ultimate” Nigerian lingua franca. “If Nigeria will stay together, the new language will be Guosa,” he emphasized. “I am following the great steps of great people to make my own innovation. This is my own contribution to Nigeria,” he affirmed.
Below are the English translations of some Guosa words: àbíncí (food), gbóntì (hear/listen), in mo ng shìengá (I am going). The word “Guosa” is derived from Igbineweka’s Edo middle name, because when he evolved, it he did not want to use the name of any Nigerian language for it. But he hopes that if it is accepted as Nigeria’s lingua franca, the name of the language could as well be called Nigerian, just like in Chinese, German French, among others.
Unlike the aborted Wazobia language, Guosa language is formulated from both the major languages and other minority languages in Nigeria. (Photo caption: Guosa Language Train-the-Trainer Programme at Ikeja Snr. Gram. School, Lagos, recently.)[/QUOTE]