Keep calm and learn Yoruba

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I am the child of Nigerian parents but in reality most people I meet think that I am Jamaican, and are very surprised when I inform them that I am Nigerian. I have never yet been able to extract from people what they think the difference is between the two ‘groups’

I have only been to Nigeria twice. So I generally find it a little fraudulent to call myself a ‘true’ native. But it is my country of origin nevertheless – and there I will find my roots/heritage/family.

Our native tongue is Yoruba, however I do not speak Yoruba – only a few badly pronounced phrases here and there “Ẹ ku aarọ”. I do understand Yoruba, as a small child I was able to listen to all the conversations in Yoruba that my parents (I presume) did not want us to hear!

Last summer I went to the Globe theatre to see the Nigerian take on Shakespeare’s ‘A Winter’s Tale’ (Itan Oginintin) it would have been excellent if I could understand the dialogue and had any knowledge of Yoruba culture and mythology! After discussion with some other people it transpires that the Yoruba dialect used in the play was a ‘pure’ form of the type one might find in the Bible, explaining why I did not understand a word. In addition to that I went home that evening and really listened to my parents. I discovered that my parents use a lot of English words in addition to Yoruba, added to the fact that I was picking up on all the non-verbal gestures – hence making me believe that I understand more Yoruba than I did in reality. Eye-opening…

Now of course I am trying to ‘learn’ Yoruba. I became aware of a great Facebook page that promotes this. And yes I have purchased the e-book Kemi ati Yemi.

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It’s a great little book – I understand all of it – littered with phrases and terminology that I have heard all my life. I guess at some point I will need to learn the rules of the language.

And then I wonder – for what purpose? To connect with my family overseas? The official language in Nigeria is English. To feel more Nigerian? I wonder if I am just a Londoner having lived in North London for 36 years.

In the end – I cannot explain it – all I know is that it feels like home.

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5 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you! Will take a look.

  1. Oluko says:

    Greetings my sister,
    Interesting blog there. We have a Yoruba Club in Kennington which runs on saturdays from 12:30 – 13:30. Peruse our Facebook page “Learn Yoruba in London (MKYCC)” for more details. Odabo!

    1. This looks great! When I get a free Saturday I will attend. Can I just turn up?

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