Nigeria is a country made up of several ethnic groups, which is why it is referred to as a multi-ethnic society. According to research, there are more than 500 languages spoken by different tribes in Nigeria, with some languages already extinct and some endangered. The enormity of these languages has brought about distinct ways of saying thank you in Nigerian languages.
Despite the division along ethnic and several other lines, saying thank you in Nigerian Languages is considered a big deal, and most Nigerian ethnic groups are very particular about it. Another common ground for most Nigerian languages is that they are very big/keen on respect. Thus, saying thank you will be based on certain criteria, which include but are not limited to age, culture, ethnicity, dialect, and personal loyalty to whoever is receiving the gratitude.
Why Do We Say Thank You?
Thank you is a way of acknowledging and showing appreciation for something that was done. Being thankful and expressing your gratitude has been identified as an important part of being happy. To show heartfelt gratitude, one can say thank you in any of the Nigerian languages, depending on the language the person is conversant with.
Moreover, finding the proper way to thank others for their generosity or even reminding ourselves just how much we have to be thankful for can be a rewarding experience.
Even though many believe that “Thank You” is the most under-used and under-appreciated phrase in the world, several others believe that it is appropriate in nearly any situation, and it is a better response than most of the things we say.
Thank You Is A Nigerian Way of Showing Gratitude
Even though the English language isn’t one of the native languages in Nigeria, the language has become part of the daily lives of most Nigerians. Nigeria came into contact with English during the British colonization period, and despite being free from their colonial masters, it appears that the language is here to stay.
One of the reasons why the English Language has been adopted as the country’s Lingua Franca is to avoid any misunderstanding that might ensue if one of the majority or minority languages is chosen. Therefore, communication in the English language is very popular in most parts of the country. According to a 2003 report, Nigerian English and Nigerian Pidgin are spoken as a second language by over 100 million people in Nigeria.
In a country like Nigeria, which is multi-diversified in terms of languages, there are three major languages: Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa. These are dubbed the major languages due to a large number of native speakers compared to other languages. These 3 languages are also part of the official language alongside English, and the government has invested heavily in their development.
Here’s How to Say Thank You In Different Nigerian Languages
- Thank you
- Nagode: Thank you
- Na gode sosai: Thank you very much
The right response or acknowledgment to this is Madalla.
Hausa is a Chadic language mostly spoken by people in the northern states of Nigeria. The core Hausa-speaking places are Kano, Katsina, Daura, Zaria, Gobir, and Rano. Hausa has over 60 million native speakers and 30 million second-language users, so it is definitely the most popular of the Nigerian languages.
- Daalu: Thank you
- Daalụ nke ukwuu: Thank you very much
- Imela: Thank you
Igbo people will respond to this by saying Nnoo, which means welcome.
There are over 40 million native speakers of the Igbo language, both as first and second language users. The language is spoken all over Nigeria by the Igbo people who are known to settle in various parts of the country, so there are various ways of saying thank you in this Nigerian language. Nevertheless, the core Igbo states are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo.
- E se: Thank you (Said to an elderly person)
- O se: Thank you (Said to someone younger or an age mate)
- E se gan: Thank you very much
- Adupe: Thank you
Respect is an important aspect of the Yoruba culture, and it reflects in the way they say thank you. The response to any of the greetings above can be “O da,” which means Okay, or “Ko to pe,” meaning (Lit. Don’t mention).
The Yoruba language has more than 50 million native speakers all across the country, but the Yoruba states are Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Lagos, and some parts of Kwara, Edo, and Kogi States. The Yoruba language has the highest number of dialects in the Nigerian language, so, there are numerous ways of saying thank you in the Nigerian language.
- You do well: (Lit: You have done well)
The response to this varies, but the most used one is No Wahala which means No Problem.
Even though the Nigerian Pidgin has been in existence since the 17th century following the first contact of the British with the indigenous people and the need for communication arose, it is in recent times that efforts have been made to develop a common orthography. Pidgin also comes in handy when language becomes a barrier due to the numerous ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Fulfulde (Adamawa State)
- Miyotti: Thank you
- Miyotti sosai: Thank you very much
- A jaraama: Thank you (to one person)
- On jaraama: Thank you (to several people)
Just like the Fulani people, the Fula or Fulfulde language is of Senegambian origin. The language is spoken by over 65 million people across 20 countries, so there are various dialects with different ways of saying Thank you.
Kanuri (Borno & Yobe States)
- Nyiro askǝrngǝna: Thank you
- Nyiro zauro askǝrngǝna: Thank you so much
Kanuri has been associated with the empires that have dominated the Lake Chad region for thousands of years. Its major dialects are Manga Kanuri and Yerwa Kanuri, and they are spoken by about 10 million people in the Northeast region.
Tiv (Benue State)
- Msugh: Thank you
In Tiv, Msugh also means sorry, hi, welcome, and lots more. You can never go wrong saying Msugh.
Tiv language is spoken in the North-central part of Nigeria. It is mostly spoken in states like Benue, Nassarawa, and Taraba. It has about 15 million speakers.
Igede is another language spoken in Benue and Cross River states, and the language is closely related to Idoma.
Ijaw (Bayelsa, Delta& Rivers States)
- Emiyenkah: Thank you
Also spelled and pronounced Ijo, the language is spoken by Ijo people in Southern Nigeria. It traditionally belongs to the Niger-Congo language family branch referred to as Ijoid.
This language is mostly found in Edo State and spoken by the Afenmai people. The language is also called Etsako in some districts and has less than a million native speakers.
Urhobo (Delta & Bayelsa States)
- Doh: Thank you
Doh also means sorry, welcome, and several other things.
Urhobo is one of the Edoid languages from the South-Western part of Nigeria. It is mainly spoken by the Urhobo people and has over 2 million native speakers.
Bini / Edo (Edo State)
- Uwese: Thank you
- Ù rú èsé: Thank you
The regular response to thank you in Bini language is Òy’ èsé which can mean It is fine or Okay.
Bini is a Volta-Niger language that is spoken by over one million people in Edo State in the southern part of Nigeria. The language is also known as Edo, Benin, Addo, Ovioba, or Oviedo.
Efik/ Ibibio (Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Abia States)
- Sọsọñọ: Thank you
- Sọsọñọ eti eti: Thank you very much
The response to both is Ofon o.
Efik/Ibibio is the major dialect in Cross River state, with about 10 million speakers. Other related dialects of this language are Annang, Oron, Ekit, Efai, Ibuoro, Eki, Idere, and Ukwa. The Efik dialect is mostly found in Akwa Ibom and Cross River, while Ibibio is found among the Ibibio people of Akwa Ibom and Abia States.
Igala (Kogi State)
- Agba/Awa: Thank you
- Megan: Thank you all
Agba can also be used as a response to any of the above.
Igala is spoken by the Igala people and it is another language from the Yoruboid language group, so it has a lot in common with Yoruba. There are over a million native speakers of Igala who are primarily based in Kogi State. Some other dialects of Igala are Ife, Dekina, Ibaji, Idah, Ankpa, Ogugu, and Imane.
Idoma (Benue State)
- Ahinya: Thank you
The response to this is also Ahinya.
Idoma is predominantly spoken in Benue state and it is the second official language in the state. A 1991 estimate pegged the number of native speakers at 600 thousand people, but they are bound to be in millions by now. Idoma people are primarily farmers, fishermen, and hunters. The language has various dialects, which include Agatu, Akpa Agila, Otukpo, Orokam Otukpa, Iyala, Utonkon, and Etilo.
Nupe (Niger State)
- Kubetebuin: Thanks
- Kubetebuin sereyin: Thanks so much
- Woe Kubetebuin sereyin: Thank you very much
Speakers of Nupe are known to respond by saying Nwage, which means Alright.
Nupe is primarily spoken by the people of Nupe from the North Central part of Nigeria. The majority of the speakers reside in Niger State, but there are others in the FCT, Kogi, Kwara, and Lagos. According to research, all the Nigerian ethnic groups originated from the Nupe-land.
Itsekiri (Delta State)
- Adokpe: Thanks
- Modokpe: Thank you
The Itsekiri language is one of the major Yoruboid languages. The language has close to a million first language users and many other second-language speakers. It is mostly spoken by the Itsekiri people and in states like Delta, Edo, and Ondo.
Miya (Bauchi State)
- Mǝn Goodee Suw
Miya or Miyawa is spoken in one of the northern parts of Nigeria. The speakers are mostly residents of Bauchi state, and the language, like Hausa, is an Afro-Asiatic language. Miya has approximately 5,000 speakers.
Gwari/Gbagyi (Niger, FCT, Kaduna & Nasarawa)
- Ma go de: I Thank You
The Ghagyi or Gbari people are the largest indigenous ethnic group in the middle belt. There are over 5 million speakers of the language, which can be found principally in Niger, FCT, Kaduna, and Nasarawa states. The Gbagyi people speak two dialects, and speakers of the dialects were loosely referred to as Gwari by the Fulani, Hausa, and Europeans, but the people themselves prefer to be known as the Gbagyi/Gbari people. They are majorly farmers and potters.
Ngizim (Yobe State)
Nɗ goodoota-ngaa naa ci
Ngizim is also known as Ngizmawa, Ngódṣin or Ngezzim. it belongs to the Chadic language family tree. The Ngizim people are mostly based in Yobe State, Nigeria, and have about 80,000 native speakers.
Ebira (Kogi state)
- Avo: Thank you
- Nyaari Emi: Thanks for your support
Ebira has been referred to as the most divergent Nupoid language. The language has about 1 million speakers who are based in Kogi State in the North-central part of Nigeria, Nasarawa, and Edo. Ebira has two dialects which are Okene and Koto (Okpoto). The Okene dialect is the more prominent and standardized version used in the media and for publishing. Okene is majorly spoken in the west of Niger-Benue, while Koto is spoken in the northeast of the Niger-Benue confluence.
- Seyil: Thank you
- Nhya Seyil: I thank you
- Nhya Seyil ya: Thank you to a male
- Nhya Seyil yi: Thank you to a female
- Nhya Seyil wun: Thank you to more than one person
Ngas belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language. The language is gender-sensitive, so there are different ways of saying thank you to a male and a female. Ngas has two dialects which are Hill Angas and Plain Angas. They are both spoken in Plateau State.
Izon (Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Delta States)
- Umbana or Ubana: Thanks
- Nua: Thank you
- Nua Kule: Give Thanks
Nua is also used as a greeting which means welcome.
Izon has been referred to as the dominant of the Ijaw languages. The language has approximately 2 to 3 million speakers and has about 30 dialects that are mutually intelligible. The most prominent of the Izon dialects are kolokuma, which is the language of education, Gbanran, and Ekpetiama.
Eggon (Nasarawa State)
- Me vye no: I thank you
- Me vye: I rejoice
Thank you in Eggon portrays happiness which is reflected in Me vye, which means rejoicing.
Eggon is majorly spoken in Nasarawa state and some parts of Kaduna and Benue states. The language has 25 mutually comprehensible dialects like Nabe, Arikpa, Eggon Wangibi, Wana, Ikka, Lizzi, Eva, Washo, Ogne, Alogani, and several others.
Tyap (Kaduna State)
- Ngwai: Thank you
- Zi gwai gbadandang: Thank you So Much
Tyap is primarily spoken in Kaduna state by the Atyep people. The language has several dialects, including Kafanchan, Gworok, Tyuku, Sholyio, Takad, “Mabatado, Tyeca̱rak, and Jju.
Note: This list is not exhaustive in any way as there are other variants (mostly dialects) of saying thank you in Nigerian languages that are not mentioned to avoid repetition. For example, while most Yoruba people will say “E se” or “O se” to thank someone, almost all the western Yoruba-speaking states have a slightly different way of saying “thank you.” In Ondo dialect, for example, Thank you can be said as “In se” or “Wo se.” This is the same thing with the Igbo language with the varying dialects found in different states.
Implications And Importance Of Speaking And Greeting In Nigerian Languages
According to popular culture, most Nigerians prefer “everything foreign” to Nigerian due to several reasons. While some have blamed the British colonization for making their culture superior and all Nigerian culture inferior, many are more worried about what has come to be referred to as Neo-colonization or the new way of colonizing most African countries, which undermines their language and culture.
Greetings and saying thank you in Nigerian Languages is now considered local and unsophisticated, leading to some of these languages being derogatively referred to as “vernacular ” in some of our educational institutions where they should know better. Children who speak their native languages are even considered dull and sometimes punished for speaking them.
According to research by linguists, children learn better when they are taught in their mother tongue during their formative years. But how many of these linguists have practiced this with their own children? This pinpoints another gap between “the town” and “the gown,” and until we can successfully marry the theorem and practice, we might not make much headway in terms of preserving our native languages.
According to research, many of the native languages in Nigeria has experienced the language shift; they have become endangered and are on the verge of death, while several others are already dead. Native speakers of Nigerian languages need to begin to take responsibility and conscientiously impact the present generation with a sense of pride in their language as they are taught to speak it.
How many people in the present generation can speak their native language? How then do they teach the next generation? Let’s think about this!