Wednesday, 9 January 2008

I wish:

that I could speak Yoruba fluently. Growing up in Port Harcourt, I felt learning to speak Yoruba was unimportant. I would normally laugh at my Yoruba friends who spoke Yoruba with their parents. To us half-Yorubas who couldn't speak our language, seeing phonetics that are unique to the Yoruba language being accidentally, intentionally and ignorantly used when speaking English was hilarious. And I thought I was refined because I felt my English was unadulterated from the clayey hands of the Yoruba language. When people would ask why I couldn't speak my language, my excuse would be that, it was an asset I did not need in the "modern world". My parents tried to teach us to speak Yoruba fluently with a lot of authority. But, their authoritative measures always came to abrupt ends as their laws of no longer speaking English in the house were suddenly forgotten (they too were afflicted).

Above all, the blame is on me, as I did not put much effort in learning to speak Yoruba. Though, I understand Yoruba very well and can fairly (maybe poorly) speak it , I wish I was a stronger speaker. But, according to my folks, they always encouraged me to speak Yoruba, while still young, lest, I loose the window of opportunity". But I don't think I'm that old, that learning a second language will be that hard. Our native language is one of the ways we identify ourselves as being part of a certain community or tribe. Therefore, if I can't speak Yoruba fluently, where's my identity?

20 comments:

Miss Maple said...

mmm.
My parent spoke our traditional language to us as kids. In fact that’s how we communicate with them to date. ( my dad is a university professor and my mum is a doctor) they both speak English rather too fluently but I have no idea why they choose to converse in our native language with us as kids.
Back then I too was reluctant to learn to speak Yoruba but my older siblings insisted that We (the kids) commune in Yoruba; while communicating in out native touge with my mum and dad.
I speak Yoruba fairly well, I can speak my native language reasonably well too. In fact my sisters still laugh at me when I mix up my pronunciations. But guess what? I’m happy I learnt how to my Ekiti language.
Right now my dad’s kids are the only ones who can communicate fluently in out native language and for some strange reason I’m proud of that.

TheAfroBeat said...

As one of the half-Yoruba species you mention, I too can barely speak Yoruba but can understand enough to get by. As a kid, yoruba lessons were the bane of my existence but as I grew older, i wanted to learn it so badly, even taking classes at my American university (my school offered all the 3 major Nigerian languages). But i just never had the continuity (speaking it on a daily basis) to become fluent in me. Plus the psychological barrier that this language is something i'll NEVER be able to speak doesn't really help.

Anyways, to your question of identity, i will say that regardless of whether you can speak your mother-tongue, your identification with your culture surpasses being able to communicate in the language of that culture. And no, it's never too late to learn a new language.

Jaja said...

I think in English and in my language as well. I didnt have to learn either of the two. I grew up speaking. Another language is always an asset. Even as a Rivers Man, many times I keep wishing I could speak Yoruba.. At least that little profit of understanding first hand Asa's songs... 'Awe' my personal favourite in the album and 'Bibanke' have been on repeat for two days.... I have no idea what they mean.... But they are so getting to me..

How you dey?

Afolabi said...

@ miss maple: Ekiti kete!!! It's great you can speak your language. I'm trying to learn to speak Yoruba properly, when the Ijebu language is waiting for me.

@ the Afro beat- I guess were not half-yorubas, as our identity surpasses language.

@ jaja-I kind of consider myself a Rivers man (hope u'll accept me). So I wish I could also speak one of the rivers language especially Ikwerre. That's an asset in ph :) I dey o!!

Jaja said...

You are accepted!

I live in PH. i dont speak Ikwerre. But If any doubt wan misbehave, when I show am my pidgin englis, he will understand I am a shon of the shoil..

Loomnie said...

I am glad that I grew up in a Yoruba family. Even till today, in my parents' house, discussions are generally in Yoruba. My mother is Ekiti so I understand the language very well, although I can't speak it so well. My only regret is that I do not speak or understand my father's language. It is one of those really difficult Akoko-bordering-Edo languages. But then, what is difficult is what one does not understand.

The only consolation is that I can speak German passably well, and my French is good enough for Zemidjan riders in Cotonou, if not for an academic discussion.

If you still have the opportunity to learn it now I think it would be a great idea.

Mamarita said...

Afolabi, YOU DO NOT COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND YORUBA! Now that its out of my system, don't beat yourself up, do something about it.
Pick up the phone call your yoruba peeps, listen to them speak, watch yoruba movies, I have friends that just learned to speak Yoruba right after college and they sound like they've been speaking it their whole lives.

Sorry bout your plight brother :)

Onyeka Nwelue said...

Interesting. I thought this is only applicable to my fellow Igbos. Good to hear Yoruba children have the same problem. Excellent.

Maybe, my saying that paganism is the only way to decolonise the colonised mind is correct.

Sorry, buddie! Maybe, you go and learn that, before you grow beards! LOL.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

hmm, this was good to read. I think I understand where you are coming from with this one. I am half Yoruba and half Kalabari. My maternal grandma was Bakweri from Cameroon. My cousins were Efik, Hausa and Edo. Holidays were always a commotion of different languages. But my family solved the problem by speaking English and pidgin (my grandma's way of communicating).

Luckily, I went to boarding school in Lagos and learnt to speak Yoruba with a vengeance, but soon forgot it once I left the country.All that 'cultural diversity' resulted in me always looking at myself as Nigerian first before trying to categorize myself by my tribal group.

So what is my identity? I like to think Nigerian. But now that I have children, I have discovered the importance of speaking a Nigerian language in the house so they have a direct link to our culture via language. Ah, I have written an epistle. Let me stop by saying I really enjoyed this post. Short, but challenging. Nice.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Oh, btw, you can learn Yoruba by watching those Yoruba films with subtitles. won man dun gon gon! (they are sweet!) lol!

Afolabi said...

@ mamarita: Thanks for the advice..I tried watching a Yoruba movie last night...lets just say I got through only half of it. Shugbon mo ma try lati wo Yoruba movies. It's just that the movies are just dry.

@ Onyeka: Hmmn...Never thought of paganism as a viable way of decolonising our minds. It could work..you know. It'll be really cool to see all these sprawling churches around transformed to shrines.

@solomsydelle: Thanks for the compliment. It's always a tough job to find one's identity, when one you are in a mixed community. But, I feel that no matter how we decide to divide ourselves into diff. cultures, we really are all Nigerians. That's enough identity..at least for me who doesn't live in Nigeria.

Olukunle said...

i stumbled on a report the other day that said that children under the age of 10 have the capability to learn five languages fluently...even back in pry. sch., i used to wonder why some classmates of mine couldn't speak the yoruba language properly while I could speak yoruba and english without any difficulty.
methink Parennts in their quest to avoid their children being termed 'loki' are to blame for the problem.

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