There is a growing concern among older Nigerians about the future of their indigenous languages. Children don’t seem to be keen on learning their mother tongue, and many adults aren’t enthusiastic about teaching them to younger ones either. Those who are passionate about culture say that the alarm bells are ringing; they warn that if care isn’t taken, most of our languages will die out as time goes on.
Yvonne Mbanefo, a Nigerian digital strategist based in the UK, had similar concerns, albeit on a level that was closer to home. She wanted to get her children grounded in her native Igbo language but found it difficult to lay her hands on modern material that she could use for this purpose. She decided to solve the problem herself, and in 2015 she wrote the Igbo Dictionary for Children.
The Igbo Dictionary for Children is designed for children aged 6 years and above who are learning Igbo as a second language. It has over 1,140 words and illustrations, as well as sentences written in Igbo and English translations. Its features make it suitable for use at home, school, or learning groups.
The book became a number one best-seller within 24 hours of going on sale on Amazon USA.
“I don’t quite know how it happened, to be honest,” Yvonne admits. “I did some marketing on social media, but I never envisaged the response the book got once it was released to the public.”
Yvonne reckons that her book has become so popular because it meets a need- and it does, especially for (but not restricted to) Igbo parents in the diaspora. She describes the demand for the book from within and outside Nigeria as “very surprising”.
The Igbo Language Dictionary for Children is available for purchase on Amazon.