Traitor. Confused. Lagosian. Hybrid. Heck, even sad.
I’ve been called a lot just because due to some weird twist of fate that resulted in me not being able to speak either one of my parents’ languages. People have tried to make me feel bad or guilty about it. They’ve even tried to make me out as some kind of freak.
Frankly, I feel guilty. Because I don’t care.
I know, I know, it’s a tragedy, I can’t ‘identify’ with my people. It’s just something I can’t kill myself about. Probably if I cared more I would have been inspired to learn a smidge of Igbo. I hear a lot more Yoruba than I do of it, god knows!
And interestingly, it’s NOT because I grew up in Lagos! I lived a sheltered enough life, went to private schools where it was so common to not be able to speak your mother tongue, it was OKAY. I never once had an issue with it. At least, not till I got to my final year in University and I realised that my roommates were gossiping about me in a foreign language AND playing the same New Dawn CD by Yinka Ayefele day in and day out *many, many, many people… many, many, many people…*. The tarts.
So, it became a bit imperative to have impromptu sessions with Kitty, where I’d ask questions like: ‘What the heck does ko si mean?’
At a point though, I realised it was a bit of a lost cause, cos barely managing to understand what they were saying about me did not benefit me in any way. So once again, I stopped caring, and also became an ardent Ayefele music recogniser. Yes. I can even smile when I hear that Many People bit.
Fast forward to my current workplace. It’s an issue of ‘Oh, you’re name is Onyeka?’ Cue the switch to Igbo. I don’t get it. I think even if I DID speak the language, I won’t speak it all that often cos I’m unbelievably comfortable with the English language. It’s the language I grew up speaking, analysing and I express myself EXCELLENTLY in it. I felt funny even saying French phrases in class –now that’s another language I know better than my mother tongue. If someone says something to me in a language, and I understand it, I’ll reply in English, cos you know what? It’s what I prefer. I could only use it to talk to old relatives and conc Igbo people, cos my friends are all Yoruba ANYWAY.
A few people tried to blame my parents for my mono-grammar (yeah, I totally made that word up). I frankly can’t blame them much. They speak different languages, and as such speak English to each other. It really didn’t start bugging them until late that my sis and I couldn’t understand diddly-squat, and even then, like me, their discomfort didn’t last.
Another funny thing I’ve been asked on many occasions is that whole, ‘But what if you want to discuss in private, something’s that a secret? How would you do it?’
Er… I’ll leave the room!? That’s the worst argument for speaking a language I’ve ever heard. It’s not like Igbo, or even Yoruba is horribly uncommon. Chances are, if you switch languages, you’ll STILL be understood. Abi I lie? Another one is the ‘if there’s a war/coup/political-tribal disaster how would your people know you’re on of them?’ *Eye roll* He-llo. I know people that can speak like 3 languages. What’s your point? Besides, if there WAS a war… I really doubt I’d stick around!!! ‘What if people are talking about you in another language?’ Um…so? Ignorance is bliss sometimes, men.
I’m not arguing or justifying myself. I just don’t see it as that big a tragedy. It’ll lead to the dilution of my culture. Perhaps. But highly unlikely. The ratio of us Traitors to you Good guys is like 1 to 50. So far my English has served me well. And while it would be cool to be able to speak another language, I admit I’m in no hurry to learn any. Does that make me such a horrible person???