Igbo – The language spoken by the largest ethnic group in Africa

Obi Emelonye, a Nigerian film maker is currently making a movie in the Igbo language. His main aim for making the movie is to revitalize interest in the Igbo language. The movie has both black and white cast and is being short in England. This has sparked the interest of other movie makers who are now also starting to think about shooting movies in Igbo. The most interesting part about this movie, Onye Ozi, is that even the white members of the cast will be speaking the Igbo language.

Igbo is one of the official languages spoken in Nigeria. There are about 18 million people who speak the language. Speakers can also be found in Equatorial Guinea. Igbo is a tonal language just like Chinese. It has two distinct sounds, which are high and low. There are over 20 Igbo dialects. Igbo has a lot of loan words from European languages such as English. There are very few adjectives in the language. Proverbs and idioms are highly valued among the Igbo people. To be proficient in the language you have to know how to use proverbs appropriately in your day to day conversations. This echoes the sentiments of Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian Author, in his book Things Fall Apart, where he stated that “Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.”

Igbo is mainly a spoken language. There aren’t many written Igbo texts available. The 1st ever book which had some Igbo material in it was the History of the Evangelistic Mission of the Brothers in the Caribbean, which was written by a Christian missionary, G. Oldendorp, in 1777. The book contained a few words and phrases in Igbo. The 1st book to be written in Igbo was soama-Ibo, which was written by Samuel Ajayi, Africa’s first Anglican Bishop. The book was written in 1857. Igbo is written using Latin script. Written material are based on Umuahia and Owerri dialects. The Ekpe, which is a secret society, uses Nsibidi symbols to pass secret messages. However, Nsibidi symbols is not a fully developed system of writing.

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