The world is divided into several ethnicities and languages, and it is normal for people from different ethnic groups not to understand each other. In Nigeria, there are 36 states, and over 525 native languages are spoken. Language is a factor that has sustained the identity and heritage of people since the time memorial. The difference in language has always been due to differences in race, location, or ethnicity, but a community in Nigeria defies this logic. The difference in the language spoken in the community is influenced by gender. This community is located in the South-south region of Nigeria.
The Ubang community in Cross River state, Nigeria, is where men and women speak different languages. Ubang comprises three villages, Okwersing, Ofambe and Okiro. Both sexes cohabit in this place but speak other languages that either party understands well. The men speak ‘Ofe’ while the women speak a language called ‘Araseke.’ It is one of the most peculiar things, and people from neighbouring villages look at this community in awe. In the same vein, the community’s elders are proud of their community’s uniqueness.
The elders always have a tale to tell anyone that cares to listen about the origin of the difference in the language both sexes speak.
The elders say God made Adam and Eve and the Ubang people during creation. They believe that God descended on a rock to distribute languages, and his footprint is still engraved on this rock. The elders narrate that it was after God gave languages to the men and women of Ubang that he realized that the languages would not go round if he shared them amongst each sex of other communities, and he halted the distribution.
The children in the community learn the appropriate language from childhood, and any attempt to know the other language ends in futility. It is not a surprise when the male child speaks the female language because they believe it is inevitable since the children spend more time with their mother during childhood. However, the language the male child speaks switches to the appropriate language at least at age 10. The transition comes naturally because no one tells the male child to switch his language. It only shows that the boy is now mature. A child or person that fails to speak the appropriate language is considered abnormal.
The elders also add that a female who tries to speak the masculine language will end up confused and make many blunders. An example of the difference is that the men call water ‘Amie‘, while the females call it ‘Banu.’ The verb, ‘go,’ is Mbie by the male, while to the women, it is Uruo. In addition, Women call yam, Irui, while men call it Itong.
The uniqueness of the Ubang language is an age-long feature of the community, and the elders believe that the language should be preserved to avoid extinction. The elders suggest different ways for the language to be preserved. Some of the suggestions are the production of novels, movies, and art in the Ubang language, the addition of the language to the school’s curriculum, and encouraging children to speak their native language. The demonization of the mother tongue to encourage conversations in English language is a threat to their heritage, and parents should not deter from teaching their children the native language.