Politics

What is “password” in your language?, By Austin Tam-George


By thinking creatively, we can open a whole new world of words and meanings to our indigenous languages, and save them from extinction.

In this fast-moving, technological age, indigenous languages must be creative in order to survive. Speakers of these languages must invent new words altogether, or assign new, imaginative meanings to old words.

But in creating new meanings, context is critical. Context gives sense, vibrancy and an ‘environment’ for words to generate meanings.

Function is also important. The function of a word gives us an idea of what it does in a statement.

For example, in technology, a ‘password’ is simply a code that gives you “access” or a “pass” into a platform.

Wakirikè is a dialect of the Ijaw language in Nigeria. In this dialect, the word for “access” or ” pass ” is called “Sò”; while “word” is called ” Okwein”.

Therefore, if in English the “password” is what gives you access, the Wakirikè equivalent of password would be “Sò okwein” !

A Wakirikè sentence: “Kèlè Sò Okwein mi sè ipiri.”

English translation: “Please give me the password”.

The popular Sèkì dance drama curated and led by the Nigerian cultural impresario, Yibo Koko, is yet another example of how indigenous culture and dramaturgy could contribute to our understanding of human civilisation.

Now, using my modest method, what is “password ” in Ogoni, Zulu, Swahili, Ikwerre, Yoruba, Ibibio, Efik, igbo, or your own language?

By thinking creatively, we can open a whole new world of words and meanings to our indigenous languages, and save them from extinction.

Like the Chinese, Japanese or the Americans, we need more inventors, culture workers, and entrepreneurs who can “think” and label their creations in our native languages.

The Nigerian fintech innovators behind Kudi, the payment platform, are therefore cultural trailblazers in a vital sense. “Kudi” means money in the indigenous Hausa language.

There is also M-Pesa, the leading mobile money service in Kenya and other countries. “M-Pesa” means “m-money” in Swahili, according to Vodafone, the brand owners.

The popular Sèkì dance drama curated and led by the Nigerian cultural impresario, Yibo Koko, is yet another example of how indigenous culture and dramaturgy could contribute to our understanding of human civilisation.

“Sèkì” means “dance” in the Wakirikè dialect.

When we think and act creatively in any language, the rest of the world will follow.

Austin Tam-George is a communication and public policy consultant. Email: attamgeorge@gmail.com


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