In a village in southern Nigeria, men and women speak different languages. The farming community in Ubang thinks that men and women speaking different languages is “a blessing from God”.

For example, a woman would call a yam ‘irui’, while in the “male language”, the word for Nigeria’s staple food is ‘itong’. While women refer to clothing as ‘ariga’, men call it ‘nki’.

It is unclear what proportion of words are different in the male and female languages spoken by the community. In fact, there is no pattern as to whether the words are commonly spoken or are related or linked to the traditional roles of men and women.

“There are a lot of words that men and women share in common, then there are others which are totally different depending on your sex. They don’t sound alike, they don’t have the same letters, they are completely different words,” anthropologist Chi Chi Undie, who has studied the community told BBC.

Interestingly, men and women are able to understand each other’s language.

The reason for this could be boys grow up speaking the female language as they spend most of their time with their mothers and other women during childhood. Boys are expected to speak the “male language” by the time they turn 10 years old.

Nobody asks the boys to switch to “male language”. However, if the child does not start speaking the correct language by a certain age, they are thought to be “abnormal”.

None of the two languages are written down, which means that their future depends on the younger generation passing them down. With Uband languages not being taught in schools and the younger generation mixing them with English words, many people believe that efforts need to be made to preserve the community’s languages.

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