Home African communication systems 11 INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE, MASS MEDIA AND INFORMATION DISSEMINATION

INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE, MASS MEDIA AND INFORMATION DISSEMINATION

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

This unit focuses on the need to use indigenous language in communicating development through the mass media.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit study, you should be able to:

  1. Discuss the impact of colonialism on indigenous African languages
  2. Identify the need to use indigenous language for communicating development through the mass media

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 Communicating Development in the Indigenous Languages through the Mass Media in Nigeria: Any Need?

In a society where about sixty percent of the population is non-literate and ignorant and so left out in the scheme of things, one may ask: what is the role of indigenous languages in the transmission of development information?

To effectively examine this issue, there is the need to look at the impact of colonialism on languages. Many countries of the world and particularly Africa are colonies of foreign countries. The aftermath is that the colonized countries had the language of their colonizers imposed on them. This assertion was bolstered by Essien (1981:15) when he said:

With the exception of Ethiopia, all Black African nations are ex-colonial territories…African nations are being blackmailed very subtly into maintaining the languages of the ex-imperial power that colonized them.

The result is that either English or French has been adopted as their official language

With English language as the official language in Nigeria, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reach the entire Nigerian population. This is not unconnected with the fact that about sixty percent of the Nigerian population is non-literate. Furthermore, many of them are poor that they cannot afford television (TV) sets and/or radio sets. The situation is even aggravated with the unhealthy state of our economy which has resulted in astronomical increase in prices of newspapers, magazines, the indigenous inclusive.

From the above, it is lucid that the beneficiaries of the media – a creation of the government to reach the masses – are the elite and semi-literate members of our society. To drive home this point, let us cast our minds back to the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) campaign. It was only the big farmers who were aware of the development in agriculture. The reason is that being affluent, they could purchase a TV set, a radio and even the dailies. And with their exposure to Western education, they could read and understand what to do to get loans, better their farming, grow more crops, etc. During the sensitisation campaign for the 2006 census, it was found that many ruralites did not receive information disseminated on the mass media on the need for them to present themselves to be counted. The major reason is because the messages were mainly in English and the people too do not have access to the mass media.
So, one is compelled to ask: what have the media done with our indigenous languages in the education of the less-educated members of our society? Do the media realise that the indigenous language is an effective means of reaching the non-literate members of our society?

3.2 Communicating Development in the Indigenous Languages via the Mass Media

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (Pearsall 1999) defined “mass media” as the main means of mass communication (especially television, radio and newspapers) of imparting information to, influencing the ideas of, enormous numbers of people. Having established what “mass media” is it is necessary to consider the role it plays in a given society. The mass media are used in the dissemination of information; to involve the people in decisions that affect their development and to create awareness in the people concerning happenings around them.

On June 15, 1976, at the National Hall, Lagos, the then Federal Commissioner for Information, Major-General I. B. M. Haruna, had this to say concerning the role of the media, “…to give full enlightenment to the people of this country in order to create a dynamic society which is receptive of modern changes”. With the roles of the media highlighted above, it is evident that the government has the people at heart and the fact that there is more than one channel of communication is an indication that the mass media are supposed to be an effective means of disseminating information for development if properly managed. This accounts for the argument in the preceeding unit that for effective communication for development in Africa, both indigenous and exogenous media must be adopted. From a language dimension, the discourse below shows the use of mass media in reaching Africans through indigenous languages.

The Newspapers: This is one of the channels through which information is disseminated to the people. The pages of newspapers carry advertisements (e.g. for loans), intention of the government, obituary and other happenings in and outside the country. Thus, to reach the non-literate members of the society, the print medium has undertaken the task of developing orthography, forming vocabularies because most English words are absent in our local languages. The privately-owned newspapers till today, employs men and women who are competent in both spoken and written indigenous languages that write and translate news in the local languages.

Newspapers, magazines and other literatures abound in the three national languages – Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo. Yoruba had hers as far back as the era of the missionaries when the first newspaper in Yoruba was published. This was the handiwork of Reverend Henry Townsend and the newspaper was known as “Iwe Irohin” (1859). The Igbos have “Udoka” newspaper, in the Igbo language; and the Hausas, have ‘”Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo” (which means ‘truth is better than money’) (Uche, 1989).

The Radio and Television: These are potent channels of reaching the non-literate members of our society because it is audio in case of radio and audio/visual in the case of television. So, it is a truism that most people cannot read in their mother tongue but can understand a fellow speaker. It is an added advantage when one sees people of his area perform on the screen of a television set.

News is translated and read on television and radio to reach the people who do not understand English language. Ipso facto helping the masses to be aware of their rights, the use of hospitals, the need to keep their surroundings clean, etc. This includes the use of enlightenment programmes (e.g. folktales, didactic folk drama, music, etc.) and commercials can also be broadcast to inculcate in the people the right type of value and morality.

The radio, for instance, Imo Broadcasting Service (I. B. S.) devotes more than seventy percent of the items on its programmes to meet the Igbo speakers’ needs – which is awareness. Most of the programmes on the TV are done in the Igbo language. There are programmes for the education of the kindergarten as well as adults (Ikuru, 1987).

In Rivers State, which is multilingual, much is not achieved. Apart from the news which is read in the four major languages, very little is done in the area of using drama to educate the people. In the quarter March – June, 1987, only one drama in Igbo – Ichioku – which lasts for only thirty minutes was shown (Ikuru, 1987). Most programmes on the NTA channel in Port Harcourt are presented in English even in programmes that are supposed to be directed at the indigenous population in which the indigenous languages ideally should be used to communicate (Ikuru, 1987).

4.0 CONCLUSION

The discourse on the use of the mass media in reaching Africans through indigenous languages and programmes highlighted the possibility in the adoption of indigenous languages for effective information dissemination in Africa. It concludes that the media can be used to advantage provided it adopts local language and programes in message delivery.

5.0 SUMMARY

This unit highlighted the need to use indigenous language in communicating development through the mass media. It also looked at the impact of colonialism on indigenous African languages.

Self Assessment Exercise

i. What is the impact of colonialism on indigenous African languages?

6.0 TUTOR MARKED ASSIGNMENT

  1.  List two mass media organisations that use indigenous language for information dissemination
  2.  Discuss any product of any one of the mass media organisations mentioned that is in indigenous language
  3.  Go to the media organisation and find out why the product is in indigenous language.

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