My French is better than my Igbo. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t speak Igbo very well, actually I don’t speak Igbo at all. My Dad wasn’t the biggest fan of the language so he never spoke it to us and I still don’t know why my mum never spoke it to us growing up.
Before you think I’m blaming my parents, which I obviously am, I’ve lived most of my life around Hausa or Yoruba speakers and my French is better than my Yoruba or Hausa combined. Let’s just say, je suis un peu fier du moi-même, juste un peu. (I can neither confirm nor deny that I checked google translate for that).
In Primary school Igbo was never taught as a subject, we were above such tribalistic philistinism. In secondary school however, that was a different case.
I aced Igbo in Js 1 because the Igbo teacher gave us the exam questions before hand, so I cramed and poured. I was a boss. In Js 2, my school had no available Igbo teacher for my set so we skipped it. To be honest, I can’t really remeber much of what happened in my JS 3 when it comes to Igbo.
In SS 2, I got the toughest Igbo teacher South East Nigeria has ever produced, she was like a hammer banging Igbo down my head by fire and force. Because of the syllabus, we were supposed to be reading Igbo literature and you have to understand that for some reason, I read Igbo fine. I just had no clue what I was saying.
My Igbo teacher knew I was an Igbo language imbecile but, she would always ask me to interprete what I’d just read. Then when I couldn’t, she’d ask me to kneel down. She’d then go on a long monologue about how I was a ceremonial head. Apparently being the headboy meant you had to pass every subject with flying colours. This happened in every class at leat twice a week throughout my penultimate year. It happened so much that every time Igbo period came around on the time table, it meant fear and trepidation. Some of my classmates would even jeer me, asking if I was ready for the war to come and that is how the cycle would continue throughout till exams.
It’s pretty difficult trying to pass an exam when you literally cannot understand the questions. My Igbo vocabulary at the time was limited to about 10-20 words, it has caught lingual atrophy now. If I didn’t see any of those words, it meant more blank space in my answer sheet and if I did see a word I knew, it meant chicken scratch handwriting was going in my answer sheet.
When your exam answer sheet is filled with chicken scratched ink prints and blank spaces, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the failure that is about to hit you is gathering red biro.
So, first term I failed, second term I failed third term I failed and each term I failed Igbo, the teacher would always call me to her office and hand me my partially marked exam script asking me to continue from where I stopped.
I would sit down in her office, looking at the ceiling, chewing my pen and I still wouldn’t be able to form a coherent Igbo sentence. So when she got tired of seeing my face she’d send me away and when the result would come out, I would fail it.
When I was given the option in my last year to drop Igbo, I dropped it like it was hot. Literally. The only thing that would have given me more joy, would be if I could drop mathematics.
Whenever I see that Igbo teacher now, I smile like we’re cool. Really we are, I don’t have anything against her. She was just doing her job, which included making my life miserable. I just wonder if my kids will ever learn Igbo. 🤔