Archive for September 26th, 2011


September 26, 2011

<img src="” alt=”” title=”medium_YORUBA” width=”240″ height=”360″ class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-3784″ />Monday, September 26, 2011
That the Yoruba language may not die
SIR: The article of Yeye Olade published in your issue of August 8, 2005, treads on familiar ground. Her suggestions are most welcome. It will surprise her to hear that as far back as 1926 (when I was born) letters and articles have appeared in the Yoruba weekly AKEDE EKO on the pollution of the Yoruba language through admixture with English words. Past copies of AKEDE EKO available in the African Section of the University of Lagos Library are my source of information on this.

I hold that the Inspectorate Divisions of Federal and State Ministries of Education are to blame for the non-implementation of the decreed government policy on the use of the mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction at the very start of primary school education. We continue to give kudos to Prof. Babs Fafunwa for the research on mother tongue education done at the University of Ife in the 1960s. One thing those who turn up their noses upon this research fail to note is that the students taught other subjects in Yoruba were taught the English language in English by specialist teachers, in view of the importance of English language in the Nigerian political, social and economic system.
Yeye Olade’s appeal to all Yoruba parents to speak undiluted Yoruba at home in bringing up the children as lovers of the mother tongue is well taken. For her information I go down memory lane and recall that in 1957, a society named Egbe Ijinle Yoruba was founded in London by Yoruba students studying and living in London. The motive force was their desire to keep their secret . All meetings of the society were conducted in Yoruba and a standing rule was that undiluted Yoruba should be spoken. Should any member admix his contribution with an English word or phrase, someone else present would supply the correct Yoruba equivalent in correction.
As the students successfully completed their studies and brought home to Nigeria the golden fleece, an Ibadan branch of the society was inaugurated. Dr. Esan and Dr. (now Prof. Emeritus) Akinjogbin were in the vanguard of the inauguration. My humble self and the late Chief Folahan Odunjo among others became members of the society. When I moved from the University of Ife at Ibadan to the University of Lagos, I spoke with the late Pa Sobande, Mr. Oladipupo Yemiitan and others with a view to starting the Lagos branch of the society which was launched in 1965.
Our desire is to see a branch or more than one branch of the society flourishing in every Yoruba town or village. However, this desire is yet to be achieved. We declared over and over again that Egbe Ijinle Yoruba is not a secret society. What ‘Ijinle’ refers to in its name is deep Yoruba, idiomatic Yoruba.
Prof. Olugboyega Alaba of the University of Lagos, in his article on the Yoruba language published in the March 1995 issue of the B.B.C. Focus on Africa magazine, merely regards the admixture of English words with the spoken Yoruba of many a Yoruba person as interesting. Says he: “Another interesting by-product of the contact between English and Yoruba is code-mixing. To show that they speak some English, which is the more prestigious language, many speakers of Yoruba often put English lexical terms into Yoruba phrases”.
Yeye Olade calls for research on modernising Yoruba. Inadequate supply of funding for such research has been a bane, but in the 1980-1983 period, the Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria spearheaded a research project funded by the Nigerian Educational and Research Council for the production of suitable terminology for legislative purposes in the three major Nigerian languages. An outcome is A Quadrilingual Glossary of Legislative Terms (English, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba) published by the Council in 1991. The onus is on the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly to make use of this Glossary after the production of a core of trained, simultaneous interpretation experts for each language.
Prior to this research on legislative terms, the Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria had succeeded in reaching consensus on appropriate meta language for teaching Yoruba language and literature in Yoruba at the tertiary level of education. The terms were published in two volumes to start with.
To round off this response of mine, I want to bring to Yeye Olade’s attention the laudable enterprise commenced by Dr. & Mrs. Onayemi in Canada starting a Yoruba literacy (reading and writing) club with well-illustrated bilingual publications: Mo on ko, mo on ka primarily to acculturate their own children as Omo Oduduwa. I believe there is a web-site for the club on the Internet.
Adeboye Babalola, Lagos

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Oloogbon Adeboye Babalola’s response to my article “The Death of Yoruba Language?” in Guardian,August 8th,was enlightening. It is the tiredless efforts of such Yoruba Scholars that has academically placed Yoruba on the World map. Now we have Google in Yoruba as a result of such hardworking scholars! We want to build on this solid foundation that Oloogbon Babalola,Akinwunmi Isola, Oladipupo Yemitan, Adebayo Faleti and so many others have laid. In an ammended version of the same article I have advanced that all State legislatures in Yorubaland must declare Yoruba as their lst language of discourse. Here the legislative terms already worked out in Yoruba,Ibo and Hausa will come into use! Also it should be noted that Yoruba on the World Wide Web is booming. Tiwantiwa,(, created by Sister Molara Wood in London is protecting the purity of the Yoruba Language and should be supported by clicking on and joining its growing membership.
The response to the article has been tremendous from all over the Yoruba World, so look forward to a soon to be announced Conference on “Saving Yoruba Language” to be held both in Nigeria and the USA. I have talked on the web and in workplaces where I go in Nigeria to many people as a result and have received many suggestions on how we will save Yoruba and other Nigerian languages. One female security guard, after reading the article prompltly declared that from that day forward all Yoruba speakers on the staff would be corrected and fined by her to make sure they stopped polluting Yoruba! The she proudly correct herself and addressed me as “Iya” instead of the “Mama” she had minutes before been calling me! One large Lagos company I visited and took time to pass copies of my articles around to read, had the Female receptionist orgtanizing staff there to a meeting where”ogas” of each section would be convinced to stop mixing and to issue fines for any mixture to be collected and used for charitable donations!
On the Net I was written to about the heavy assault of “born-again” churches on Yoruba speaking in the church and outside. I replied ,as a Christian myself that “righteous ” members should organize “Yoruba Services” and evangelize so much in the community that these services would become the most attended, a feat which I am embarking on in my own church.
Keep the suggestions flowing and act on solutions that occur to you O Great Nigerians and Yoruba, Urohbo, Ogoja,Ibo,Gwari and all other endanged Nigerian languages will be saved!

Monday, August 08, 2005

The death of Yoruba language?
By Yeye Akilimali Olade “Kilo happen? Ma worry. Mo understand. Kosi problem. Mo sorry gan. Ma expect me. Ke e nice day” – (a GSM conversation)
Surely this is not Yoruba that this man is speaking? Definitely not! Yet everyday Yoruba speaking people are killing Yoruba like this. Is this the new (English) pidgin for Yorubaland, joining other sections of the country, who have specialised in killing their own Nigerian language by using mainly “pidgin” in the name of “communicating” with other groups? Oyibo culture has brought Nigerian culture to its knees in so many ways – now a foreign language seeks to kill our own God-given languages, using Nigerians as the executioners! Eewo!
That English, the ready-made weapon of British-American cultural imperialism, is not just trying to destroy African languages, but is attacking all other languages worldwide, I agree. Ojoogbon Akinwunmi Isola, the newly-appointed Chair of Oyo State Arts and Culture Board, related to me during a discussion with Ojoogbon Babatunde Fafunwa, the problem the French are having with English. He stated that the French government had recently warned all French broadcasters to stop polluting French with English, as is now popular in general French conversation, or face dismissal. But I doubt whether the French would think of slaughtering their language to the extent that Yorubas daily have begun to do.
The greatest tragedy in Yorubaland today however regarding language is the dominating trend to speak only English to their children, making it their first language, then sending them to private nursery school, who only teach in English and causing Yoruba children to value English above all other languages! (After all their WAEC will not be in Yoruba, one highly-educated Yoruba man told me!) And see the result! These English-speaking children will rudely use English to disrespect all and sundry (after all English does not have pronouns of respect for anybody). Hear them saying “Shut up Daddy! – Give me back my candy!” in an authoritative way. And hear this one told by Oloogbon Ishola – an semi-literate (in English)) parent says to his child, “Say hello to Daddy”. The child replies “Ye ‘llo Daddy”. Olodumare! Yoruba children now do not know proper Yoruba and even as a result of this mixture do not know the real Yoruba words for “ma worry”, “check result” etc.. Ask them or some of their parents and they will tell you they don’t know the original Yoruba for the popular phrases that many literate and non-literate leaders and followers commonly use throughout Yorubaland.
As a Black-American, who has come back to her Yoruba roots these past 26 years in Nigeria, I want to break down in tears over this “iyonu”! How can Yorubas kill their own language? What sort of curse is this? Obviously the curse of european-american imperialism/colonialism/slavery! As a result I have declared “War Against Destroying Our Nigerian Languages” from today. And it must start from Yorubaland. Are not the Yorubas the “wisest and the greatest”? As everything good seems to start from Yorubaland in Nigeria, “let it be so”.
I am appealing to all full-blooded Yoruba, as of today to consciously seek not to mix English with their Yoruba. Yoruba leaders must slowly speak, watching their tongues, not to include any English words inside their Yoruba. It has gotten to a state where such leaders cannot avoid mixing English as they speak Yoruba and their every sentence includes whole English phrases! The late Yoruba leader, Oloye Bola Ige was a pure Yoruba language speaker and other Yoruba leaders should follow his example. This is a “War Against English words entering Yoruba”!
All clubs and organisations in Yorubaland should hold bi-annual and annual Yoruba Speaking Competitions for the “Best Yoruba Speaker”, with heavy monetary prizes (N20,000 plus) to get Yorubas to consciously practice speaking Yoruba without any English mixture. Yoruba broadcasters are guilty of promoting this deadly trend. Yoruba stations must have quarterly courses in Correct Yoruba Speaking for they are one of the biggest offenders of mixing heavily English into Yoruba. In schools Yoruba teachers must stress the importance of not mixing Yoruba. All private schools in Yorubaland must be required to have classes in Yoruba language from nursery through secondary school levels. There is a “famous” private school in Lagos, owned by Lebanese (or is it Syrians), which does not teach Yoruba on the secondary school level, as required by law. Law enforcement is necessary with frequent unannounced inspections on this crucial issue. And any student who fails to pass Yoruba in Yorubaland must not be allowed to graduate!
The Yoruba Press must be commended for indeed holding the banner high and not polluting Yoruba with English, especially Alaroye, Alalaye, Ajoro, Iroyin Yoruba, Akede must also continue the struggle to save Yoruba language. More effort however must be made to eliminate “pasito”, professor “dokita” words as most of them have genuine Yoruba words that can be enlisted and popularised among their readers. Aworen must be resurrected by Alaroye, for use in all schools in Yorubaland as it was in the ’50s to inculcate love of Yoruba language among children. Yoruba departments in Nigerian and foreign universities must start churning out more research on modernising Yoruba for technical, scientific and other vocabulary and making it available through special courses for the media and the general Yoruba public.
Yoruba writers must begin to write and publish bilingual publications. For any publication they publish in English, its Yoruba equivalent must be done. In the same book (Yoruba-from the front, turn upside down, English from the back) is one way to do it or in a title simultaneously released. More books, magazines, other publications like club histories, year books must be published in Yoruba. (Do you know that Alaroye sells many more copies than English newspapers in Yorubaland?) For example why is a prominent Yoruba Club issuing their history in English? If they must have English, then it must be a bilingual edition, in Yoruba from the back. Who but Yoruba should promote publications in Yoruba? We must stop promoting a foreign language over our own God-given language.
Yoruba music too, has been assaulted by Yoruba artists, unknowingly killing Yoruba language. The mixture of English has reached a new high in Fuji, Yoruba Gospel has started mixing English inside Yoruba songs within Yoruba cassettes, adding along side complete English songs! Olodumare! Such artists must be warned – no more killing of the language in this manner. If it is English you want then put that on an English cassette. Do not replace our God-given Yoruba in a Yoruba music cassette!
Yoruba movie practitioners are perhaps the biggest offenders and must take up this challenge to save Yoruba language. English mixing should absolutely be banned in all Yoruba films. I have not researched the topic but I suspect that Hausa, is probably the most unpolluted language in Nigeria, and in all their films that I have seen no English there at all.
The beauty of the Yoruba language must be showcased by having more Yoruba Cultural Festivals to be held by all clubs and organisations in Yorubaland annually. Odua’s People Congress and other enforcers of law and order in Yorubaland must be in the vanguard, not only by stressing among its members that Yoruba should not be polluted but by holding bi-Annual Yoruba Speaking competitions for the “Best Yoruba Speaker”. They must lead the way in correct Yoruba speaking and have literacy classes for all their members to learn to read in Yoruba and encourage them to speak Yoruba in the home to their children: Yoruba must become again the first language of Yorubas at home and abroad.
Finally a private, Yoruba school system must be set up. These schools will teach all subjects in Yoruba from nursery up to the university eventually. If it must be like a “mushroom school”, starting with nursery school first and adding class by class this must be done. This Yoruba Academy can be supported extensively by Yorubas abroad, eventually having board houses were Yoruba children from abroad can join their counterparts here, including all “classes of children, street children etc.) This Yoruba Academy will inculcate Yoruba culture into our children also. With the help of our Yoruba scholars we can build on Ojoogbon Babatunde Fafunwa’s successful “Mother-tongue Education” at University of Ife in the 60s. Afterall, even UNESCO has proven that Mother-tongue Education is the best for all children.
Let Yoruba Language not die! God has given the Yoruba race a language to be proud of, anywhere in the world (there are at least 60 million or more Yoruba speakers throughout the world). Let’s not destroy it with our own mouths! Let us pass it on in its richness to our children, daily in our home. Let us proudly speak it daily, read it daily, champion it daily. Yorubas cannot remain great without our language. And let us be in the vanguard of saving all Nigerian/African languages.
Biu, Ogoni, Urhorbo, Igele, Ogoja, Ebira, Idoma, Efik, Tiv, Langale, Tangale, Kagona, Kutep, Oron, Legdo, Bubiaro, Esan, Afima, Isekiri, Ijaw, Edo, Ikenne, Joba, Gwari, Ibo, Igala, Hausa, speakers are you listening?
*Mrs Olade is the Chief Librarian of African Heritage Research Library, Adeyipo Village via Ibadan.

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September 26, 2011


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