Monday, March 7, 2011

Language Dilemma

It started with a debate with a friend. License and Licence, which one is British and which is American? Okay, here it is: all in my (British) English language trained mind, I thought Licence with the ‘c’ was American and the other was British. It’s the other way round.

Now, I don’t underestimate my dictionary. I pick it whenever I am unsure of the spelling or usage of a word. That’s just by the way. The debate went into other things. What language should one write in? Your mother tongue which many scarcely understand? English language which itself presents its own challenges? Many people think in English language and don’t trust themselves when it comes to using the language creatively? You need to read a Morrison or an Achebe…Morrison recreates language; she makes it her own…she laces her words with music and symbols that make them look different. Achebe ‘Igbolises’ his words, lasing them with native proverbs and wise sayings. He uses the master’s language to free himself. You literally think that you are hearing English read to you in Igbo. 

There are many varieties of language. Your native language, English language, there is pidgin, there is the new ‘internet language’ exactly what should a writer use to write? Should you just write in a tongue you are comfortable with?

NB. There was the debate, uproar which started with Adaobi Nwaubani’s article. Several have responded. You can enjoy the debates. 

Nigerian's Talk

A Tunaina


  1. Speaking for myself, it would take more out of me to write in Igbo, even though I actually learned it up to SS3. I think in English and cannot carry out whole conversations in Igbo even with other Igbo speakers.

    Generally, people should write in the language they're most comfortable with. And please throw away the dictionary while draft writing. Afterwards, while rewriting, you can make use of a thesaurus. I find it helps you keep the flow natural.