|Mariama overlooks a neighborhood in Jos|
In 2019, I was deeply encouraged when our international Chief Research Officer, Gary Simons shared a poster that corrected this misunderstanding. When I was about five years old, I first met Gary Simons. I was more interested in playing with his children at the time. After becoming a language surveyor, I began to appreciate not only this man’s thoughtful faith, but also his insightful analysis of data about languages. In this poster he shares the data: only about nine languages die each year—or about one every 40 days. More languages are dying in the Americas and Australia—where many of the cultures were based on a threatened “hunter gatherer” lifestyle than in Sub-Saharan Africa—where agricultural practices have made a stable environment for maintaining culture. I observed that this is also true in Nigeria—as I travel all over Nigeria I meet youth and children, participating in the agriculture-based lifestyles, and still speaking and preferring their language for many parts of their lives.
|A river crossing from my survey days|
However, all over the world, as people move to cities and intermarry with people speaking different languages, many people are not passing their languages on to their children. It is hard to predict what will happen to languages in these situations. Sometimes people who have moved to cities realize the value of their heritage, and therefore work harder to stay connected—including frequent visits back to their home area. They may also support language-related work with their time and money.
|Mariama visits a village where I did survey years prior|
|Mariama and Lydia visit a village for Scripture Listening and Reading groups in 2019|
I am grateful that Nigerian languages—and many languages around the world—are not dying as fast as some have guessed. Even when languages are dying, usually the people who speak them aren’t—and this requires great wisdom to know how to serve these people.