Vol. 47:1 (2023) ► pp.1–23
Issues in introducing indigenous languages in higher education in Africa
The example of Nigeria
As the most populous African nation, with one of the most diverse, and problematic, ethnolinguistic profiles in the world, Nigeria provides a case study for the potential introduction of indigenous languages in (higher) education delivery in once colonised territories. We argue that increased enrolment in higher education will become necessary for Nigeria to attain its developmental goals. We then discuss the limits to what the Nigerian educational system can be expected to achieve using English as the medium of instruction. Once these limits are surpassed, the gradual addition of a limited number of Nigerian languages will become inevitable. We propose to make use of a distinction between languages as designed (or intellectualized) and languages as discerned, inspired by the terminology of ‘Ausbau’ and ‘Abstand’ languages as used by Kloss. The article briefly reviews the complex linguistic makeup of Nigeria and outlines a number of principles that could guide rational language choices in this area, such as ease of acquisition and inclusivity. It ends with suggesting a number of concrete steps that should be taken over the coming years in order to make the introduction of indigenous languages into higher education in Nigeria a practical possibility.
- 2.Why a transition to Nigerian languages will be needed
- 2.1On discerned and designed languages
- 2.2The challenge of education for all
- 2.3Required language level in Tertiary education: The case of Nigeria
- 3.How to choose Nigerian languages for use in education
- 3.1Ease of acquisition and learning
- 3.4State of development
- 4.How could a transition be made?
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