There are many functions to the Igbo words in the novel. In no particular order, one function is to introduce the Igbo culture and language to the reader. Things Fall Apartis written in English, which is not the first language of the author Chinua Achebe . By including...
There are many functions to the Igbo words in the novel. In no particular order, one function is to introduce the Igbo culture and language to the reader. Things Fall Apart is written in English, which is not the first language of the author Chinua Achebe. By including words and phrases in the Igbo language, he allows the reader to take a closer look at the lives of the people he writes about. The novel is widely popular, and it's quite likely that most of us readers do not speak Igbo. Using Igbo vocabulary helps with world-building and makes the book more realistic.
In addition, it's useful when there are ideas and terms that don't have an exact equivalent in English. For comparison, no translator would ever translate words like "sushi" from Japanese, "rabbi" from Hebrew or "déjà vu" from French. It's not that it's impossible, it's just that something gets lost in the translation. When reading about a different culture, being introduced to it through their language and vocabulary helps to understand them better.
Secondly, the characters themselves think in Igbo terms. It is the basis for how they interpret and interact with the world. Losing the Igbo words would make it harder to convey the framework of ideas and traditions they work in. In a way, having a specific term for something solidifies the notion of its importance. For example, if the novel just said that there were outcasts among the Igbo people, it would remain somewhat fuzzy. As they are introduced to us as Osu, an entirely separate class in the Igbo society, the significance of their exclusion becomes more real somehow. It implies that the Osu are not just chosen at random, that there is a long history to some people not being allowed to partake in the larger society. Here, the function of Igbo words is to remind the reader that the world the characters live in is not the world they know.
Thirdly, there is a literary and philosophical function to consider. Achebe has said that language and the beauty of language is very important to the Igbo people. They like conversing, they enjoy it, they relish in it. Igbo words are a symbol of the power of words and the beauty of storytelling. In every way, it provides a contrast to the novel itself, which explores the topic of colonial expansion and its clash with the Igbo culture.
Achebe was criticized by some for writing his novel in English and defended himself by asking why wouldn't he use a way to introduce the Igbo culture to the world through means the colonists themselves provided. The levels of language therefore go very deep in the novel. It's written by a Nigerian author in English, the Igbo words and phrases emphasize a somewhat lost word. The characters are both barbaric and deeply insightful, they are capable of horrible things and enjoying good conversation, and so on. Igbo words help make Things Fall Apart what it is: an amalgam of or a bridge between worlds.