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Obie Njoku

Igbo Language Consultant:

Dialect coach/Interpreter/Teacher/Translator.

Growing up in Enugu was the spice of my childhood! Enugu of the 1980s still retained its flavor as the melting pot of Igbo land. Families and individual remnants of Coal City, the geopolitical and the cultural powerhouse of the East Central State, were constant features all over the Coal City. On any given day and in almost any neighbourhood, you would hear the various dialects that represented the various composites of the Igbo nation. My circle of friends ranged from kpanam in Delta state to mk in Rivers. Radio programs that recognized and celebrated the diversity in Igbo culture were regular features. There wasn’t Nollywood then; few families even had TV sets. The radio and VHS tapes were your sure bet to access all things beyond your orbit.

My love for Igbo culture stemmed from listening to veteran Igbo broadcasters, like, Iche nwagba nwagba, Chijioke Atama, and the inimitable Chukwuma Ogbonna. Through my primary and secondary school years, Igbo language was always a favourite subject. I moved to the temperate university town of Jos in Plateau state after secondary school. It was in Jos that an incident stoked my appreciation for the language.


While in conversation with a friend, Jude Aniagbas (from Mbaukwu), he sensed that I was about to make a sensitive comment. He nudged me, and as our eyes met, referring to a Hausa man sitting quite close, he said, “ na-atakwa ak any na-eti.” In plain language, he said that the man “eats the palm kernels we crack.” But it was a code to let me know that the man understood the Igbo language. Certainly, the Hausa man’s knowledge of Igbo was not deep enough to decode the Igbo Wise Saying just deployed. It was a precious moment that obviously stamped itself in my memory. I realized that “Igbo Wise Sayings” functioned as a “language” within a language. It dawned on me that what I took for granted was so sophisticated it saved the day. That moment which reminded me of Ichie nwagba nwagba made me a life-long student of culture! 

Prior to coming to the United States, I spent two years in Zürich, Switzerland where I picked up sufficient German to get me by. I have been working on my French since 2010, so, my approach to teaching is enriched by the perspectives that these other languages bring to bear on my knowledge base. Over the last decade, I have been privileged to coordinate the Igbo language program for Umu Igbo Unite (UIU) Atlanta. In this capacity, I have partnered with Igbo Union Atlanta (IUA) to organize Igbo Language Summer Boot Camp for the Atlanta Igbo community.

In 2018, I began to use the African Students Association (ASA) at Georgia State University to seek out interest in Igbo language at the Atlanta Campus. In the summer of 2018, I organized and hosted the first Annual Igbo Lecture Series at the Troy Moore Library of the Atlanta Campus. My involvement in Igbo language spans Teaching, Translating, Interpreting, and Dialect coaching. My most recent project was working with Universal Television as the translator and dialect coach in the Little America series, an AppleTV+ content.

My Philosophy:

There is a lot more to being Igbo than having an Igbo name. You really don't know who you are if you don't know who your ancestors were.

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