I dream of one day going to Cuba and Brazil and meeting the people who not only share the same ancestors as me but who have been able to sustain our joint cultural heritage. The Yoruba culture is alive and well in Latin America especially in Brazil and Cuba. The culture might have gone through some modifications in these countries but the culture is still recognizable.I am proud of those Yoruba slaves who kept their traditions alive and through that retained an identity for their generations to come. My gratitude is not only for them retaining their culture but because it forever keeps us in the motherland connected with those in Latin America. We do not have to go to the history books to tell us anything. We can go to Latin America and see for ourselves that our cultures exist. Even better, Latinos can go to Nigeria and see where their culture comes from.
My cultural pride therefore magnified when I found out that Yoruba scholars were sent to Brazil to teach some of their population the Yoruba language. I’m aware that universities around the world do offer Yoruba as a course. We’ve all seen the videos of Oyinbos speaking fluent Yoruba (better than some Yorubas to be honest). However, to know that those who share similar ancestors as me are specifically given the opportunity to learn Yoruba is a great thing.
This extension of Yoruba to other parts of the world also offers two challenges or as we say in business, an opportunity. The first opportunity that we have is to teach our children in Nigeria the Yoruba language. The fact is, the education of the Yoruba language has to start from ‘home’. It would be a shame for scholars to teach other countries the language but for our Yoruba children to not know how to speak the language. This issue of African parents not teaching their native language to their children is a discussion for another day. However, parents, teachers and community members should ensure that we’re proud of our language and ensure that our children are equally as proud.
The second opportunity that the extension of our language provides is the chance to bring Yoruba to this generation and time. Yoruba is becoming a static language. It is almost impossible to speak Yoruba these days without using some English words. English does not sound well with Yoruba but sadly we’ve all been accustomed to speaking that way. I remember a few years ago my Taiwanese friend and I were discussing the new words that were added to the Mandarin language. I felt ashamed when I told her that practically words do not get added to the Yoruba language. She was surprised and she realized that was the reason it sometimes felt like she had a clue of what I was saying when I’m speaking Yoruba because she can pick up on some of the English words.
I understand that there are some Yoruba scholars who are making incredible efforts to add words to the Yoruba language. But many times, these words are merely English words that are ‘Yorubanized’. For instance, computer becomes ‘komputa’. Their efforts are appreciated and frankly I do not claim to know the solutions to the challenges I’ve presented but let us take on the challenge together and progress our language and culture.
Let’s Talk About it is a series that focus on different issues in the Nigerian community that we don’t talk enough about. If you have any issue you want to talk about then message me.