The path to Standard Igbo has not been without obstacles. Although it would appear that most professionally-trained Igbo linguists see the need for standardization very clearly, their much-revered novelist, Chinua Achebe, has made no bones about his distaste for it. In a 1999 speech sponsored by ODENIGBO, a lecture series created by the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Prof. Achebe discussed his strong aversion to the push toward standardization.

As I struggled toward  accurately translating his speech into English, my impression was that he was so stung, and I believe rightly so, by the impertinence of Western missionaries in telling native speakers how they should speak--all the while scorning them as childish and inferior beings--that his vision of what was best for Igbo speakers was obscured.

I think it is a telling point that the ODENIGBO authorities chose to publish the lecture in Standard Igbo in addition to the dialect in which Prof. Achebe submitted it.

Any material in square brackets is my own insertion, while material in parentheses appears in the original text. Also, this text is interlaced  with colorful proverbs, which is typical of Igbo discourse. Many of these are beyond my capacity to translate properly. Anyone who wants to delve more deeply into this field can look at the link to sources for the study of these proverbs.

Frances W. Pritchett
Little Rock, Arkansas
January 2003

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