She's Saving African Languages!

With all the emphasis on learning languages this year, there's a family of languages that seems to get less spotlight: African languages. In fact, I was reading that there are several languages that are endangered and vulnerable to extinction to varying degrees.

Enter Udochi Okeke, a software developer who works on projects that encourage the use of the Igbo language in industries that traditionally use English for communication such as science, technology and business. Read more to find out how she does her part to encourage Africans to use and do business in their native languages.


BGLL: Hi Udochi, thanks for accepting the invitation to be interviewed. Tell us about yourself.

Udochi: My name is Udochi Okeke. I reside in Washington, DC and I am of Igbo heritage.

BGLL: Which language is your native language(s)?

Udochi: My first language is English, because I was born and raised in the United States.

BGLL: Which other languages do you know? How do you use them? If not currently using, how do you plan to use them or how have you used them in the past?

Udochi: I began to teach myself Japanese, although I do not use it much. I have a working knowledge of the Igbo language. Igbo is one of the biggest tribes in the African country of Nigeria. I did not grow up speaking Igbo, but today I am working hard to achieve not only fluency, but Igbo mastery. I also hope to one day learn the ancient Igbo writing script called Nsibidi.

BGLL: I was reading that some of the African languages are on the U.N.’s endangered list right now. How do you discourage the disappearance of African languages?

Udochi: Right now, the primary language of science, technology and business is English. For this reason, many other [African] languages are losing their relevance. Many languages die every day. Many Igbo people grow up today not being able to speak a word of Igbo. This includes those born in Nigeria.

I am currently the Director of Operations at http://nkammuta.com which is a bounty website that pays people to translate academic knowledge into the Igbo language thereby focusing on driving the Igbo language forward with academic concepts. I also founded Nwudo.com, which I created to encourage Africans to read, write and do business in their native languages. My aim is to promote its relevance through education, creation of relevant media and marketing. I am really passionate about encouraging the relevance of Igbo language, and I practice what I preach.

BGLL: How did you learn the other languages?

Udochi: I am mostly self-taught through immersion, and interaction with native speakers. I have lived in Nigeria for a combined total of 4 years of my life. Obviously, I have been around Igbo people most of my life since my closest relatives are Igbo.

BGLL: Which of your foreign languages are your favorite and why?

Udochi: My favorite language is Igbo. That's why I am trying to encourage it's use in science, technology and business. 

BGLL: Three tips you can offer those who are trying to learn the languages you know?

Udochi: 1. Speak it as often as possible. 2. Find others who speak and speak with them. 3. Have fun! Play with the language. One of my favorite things to do is playfully translate songs I know from English to Igbo. I know that these translations are not perfect, but it's funny and often helps me to remember some words.

BGLL: Tell us about your professional background.

Udochi: I have a Bachelor's of Science from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Clinical Psychology. I currently work as a Certified Software Developer. For the past few years, I have been fully pressing into what I feel is my calling to uplift my community. I was a founding team member of the Igbo language school and 501(c)3 non-profit organization Express Igbo in the summer of 2014. The two main brands that I juggle now are Nwudo.com and Nkammuta.com

BGLL: How can we keep up with you on social media?


Udochi: Follow me on Twitter@IgboSwag, Instagram: @TheRealNwudo and YouTube Nwudo.

CONVERSATION

2 comments:

  1. My mum is igbo and my dad ibibio. I grew up mostly around my igbo relatives but I am sadly not fluent nor speak it confidently. Ibibio is the one language I want to learn. I can't speak it past saying my name or greetings. If I knew someone who could teach me, I would take the class.

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    1. Why am I just now seeing this? I think I will invest some time into just learning some basics. I would even love to learn pigeon English that I hear and wish I could speak that dialect.

      xoxo,

      Language Bae

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