page loader

Igbo language is the language of Igbo people of Nigeria, West Africa and as old as the Igbo race. It is a language globally spoken by more than 30 million people of Igbo ancestry but this language is more predominantly spoken within the ancestral Igbo homeland of South-eastern Nigeria. A publication in 2012 by the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) highlights that Igbo language risks extinction in 8 years. Unlike English language, Igbo language deviates from the classical linear model of morphology as laid out in the sound pattern of English. Igbo language is written in Roman script as well as the historical Nsibidi formalized ideograms. Nsibidi ideography existed among the Igbos before the 16th century, but died out after it became popular among secret societies who adopted Nsibidi as a secret form of communication.

Igbo language is one of the most complex languages of the world and has a historic place in propagating human identity. It is a complex language because of the huge number of dialects, its richness in prefixes and suffixes and its heavy intonation. Igbo language is a tonal language and while there is central Igbo language, there exists hundreds of dialects within Igbo language that also risks extinction and loss to humanity.

In 1939, Dr. Ida Ward became the first scholar to lead an expedition of research into Igbo dialects and how different dialects spoken within the Igbo enclave could be amalgamated into a central language that would be acceptable and understandable by all Igbo language speakers. Later known as central Igbo, this effort brought together divergent dialects such as those of the Owerri people, Umuahia people, Onitsha people and a host of other dialects into a central language which became formalized within the enclave and in teaching new learners. And moving forward, the new central language became gradually accepted by missionaries, writers and publishers, including Cambridge University Press.

One of the first books published with Igbo words was in 1789. The book, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was published in London, England and was written by Olaudah Equiano, a former slave of Igbo ancestry. Thousands of books have since been published in Igbo language albeit the decline over the last two decades.

By all accounts, the most renown book that deals with the Igbos and their traditional life was the 1959 classic, Things Fall Apart by Professor Chinua Achebe. This novel elucidates the influences of British colonization and Igbo identity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The publication by UNESCO that Igbo language risks extinction has galvanized people of Igbo extraction all over the world to mobilize resources to salvage the situation and prevent the loss of this historical gift to humanity. This is the driving force behind the establishment of Igbo language school in Western Australia, and with progress so far made and interest shown by individuals, governmental and non-governmental agencies, it is envisaged that Igbo language will continue to be spoken and heard by generations unborn.