The Use of Language among the Enugu People

Language can be said to be a human creation, tools we invent and hone to suit our needs. Ethnically and linguistically, Enugu state is an Igbo speaking state. However, English is also widely spoken as its second language and tourists can make themselves understood anywhere in the state if they speak English or its local substitute, the pidgin-English.

Igbo language is one of the many languages spoken in Nigeria. Since independence, the main languages in Nigeria has been Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, also known by 'Wazobia' I.e 'wa' in Yoruba, 'zo' in Hausa, and 'bia' in Igbo, all meaning to 'come'.


Enugu is one of the States that have Igbo as their predominant language. One may get by speaking English in most part of the state, though in some very remote areas only Igbo is understood.

Tones are used to differentiate words that are written identically. For example the same word in Igbo may have four different meanings depending on its pitch. Akwa for example has four meanings; its either weeping, a cloth, an egg or a bridge.

Additionally, many words in the language are built up from smaller words, not to say for a few English words that have been copied directly. There are wide variety of dialects, some of which resemble each other, though others might have totally different vocabularies and pronunciation, the word order and tone are consistent throughout the grammatical Igbo structure.

Igbo written language is phonetic and it uses most of English Alphabet.The consonants are similar to the use as in the English language, though there are different combinations of consonants which are officially recognized letters.

Another salient point to mention while talking about the Igbo language is their use of proverbs (Ilu), parables (Ukabuilu) and idioms (Akpalaokwu).Chinua Achebe, one of the prominent sons of Igboland in his definition of proverb said that it is the 'salt with which words are eaten'.

This means the wisdom of a people in nutshell as a complex stories and situations are concentrated in few words and phrases that captures and retains the essential meaning of the experience from which they are intended. Hence, the need to use the Igbo proverbs ,its parables and idioms in every traditional setting has elevated the language to the status of a living art of popular communication .

Reciting proverbs is as effective as not using them. Beyond the usual recitation, it is necessary to know often the appropriate event and time to use Igbo proverbs in other to communicate the appropriate message and achieve the desired result. Using few examples, I will mention some proverbs, it's translation and the underlying meaning.

Obulu na agwo emeghi ihe oji buru agwo, Umuaka ewere ya kpa nku. In translation it means that If a python does not behave as one, it will be mistaken for a firewood by the kids, meaning ; If one doesn't show his strength, he risks being ridiculed or underestimated. Mmanwu nokaria n'ogbo, umuaka abo ya aja. Which in translation means if a masquerade overstays in a public square, Children throw sand at it. This means If a man overstays his welcome in a place, he loses his respect.

However, as a result of several 'dialects' in Igbo language, many of us may not immediately understand the meaning of proverbs owing to the foreign dialect of words it is contained. Fortunately, as we become more acquainted with these dialects, we begin to appreciate our total inheritance as speakers of Igbo language.

Despite the various dialects of Igbo , there is a 'standard' variety (Igbo Izugbe), which is more or less imagined than being real since it is practically impossible to trace this variety to a particular geographical setting within the Igbo speaking communities. The dialects form part of the richness and fascination of Igbo as a Language. In order to create a promising future for this language,  a dialectical variation in Igbo should not be seen as an obstacle towards the language but as a rich and valuable asset.

Finally, Igbo language is a uniquely human gift. It is what makes us human as we peek at the very nature of  human.