How did the colonists change the Igbo language?

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chinua Acbebe’s Things Fall Apart, the invasive colonial influence present in Umuofia changes a number of aspects of traditional Igbo culture. Interestingly, while Achebe does not explicitly mention that the colonists change the language within Umuofia, upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that they do in fact impact the language. One scene that I argue illustrates this change occurs halfway through the novel when white Christian settlers describe their religion to the Igbo through an interpreter:

“After the singing the interpreter spoke about the Son of God whose name was Jesu Kristi.... The missionary ignored him and went on to talk about the Holy Trinity. At the end of it Okonkwo was fully convinced that the man was mad. He shrugged his shoulders and went away to tap his afternoon palm-wine” (146-7).

While Okonkwo and the Igbo clan are derisive toward the missionaries, the fact remains that “Jesu Kristi” becomes part of the Igbo lexicon. Similarly, when white settlers introduce European models of government to the region, these institutions and their English names become ingrained with the culture. For example, the District Commissioner is consistently called the District Commissioner by Igbo individuals, so this name has entered Igbo vocabulary.

These are just two subtle ways in which white settlers affect the Igbo language.