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13 Jul 2010

To speak or not to speak

***Inspired by a friend's status on fb.
***Sounds like a rant but really it isn't.
***I am Yoruba hence this post might seem directed at fellow Yorubas but I think we can all relate

My two and half year old niece amazes me. She speaks English and Yoruba quite well. This is because sometimes she spends time at my parents (her grandparents) house in Ibadan and my grandma (her great grandma) who hardly speak any English stay at my parents’ as well. So you can imagine the English and Yoruba conversations that go on at my parents’. One time my grandma called her and I heard her say “Mama, mo n bo o”. Another time someone else called her and she replied “ I am coming”. That cracked me up! The girl even says some Yoruba words that I don’t know. At that age she can interpret English to Yoruba and vice versa and she knows who to speak English and Yoruba to respectively. If I say I am not amazed, I lie.

So, I was sharing my amazement with a friend and she was like “ah they have turned your niece into iya arugbo (old woman) ” referring to her speaking Yoruba. I laughed at the time but thinking about it later, I wondered, when did speaking Yoruba become razz or an old person’s thing to do. If children don’t speak it when they are young is it when they are older they will speak it?

I think many Yoruba people are guilty of this notion. The worse ones are some that live in Nigeria and refuse to speak any Yoruba to their children “Please o, I don’t want my children to be razz” (so that means you that can speak Yoruba you are razz abi?), “We only speak Queen English in our house” (Fake fake). What a sad and ignorant thing to think.

I observe Asian parents with their children on the bus or train here in the UK and all you hear them speak is their native language. And I can bet you that those children can speak English fluently. Why do we have this mentality that if our children speak Yoruba they won’t be able to speak English? You! yes you, don’t you speak both English and Yoruba and maybe another language like French effortlessly? Or what exactly is the issue as I really what to understand it. If someone can explain it to me I will appreciate that.

I have one kind of respect for people who can speak Yoruba well and English even better. It trips me. I am definitely not the best Yoruba speaking person (I can hardly pray well in Yoruba or read a book in Yoruba) but I can converse relatively well in Yoruba. My wish is for Princess to understand and speak Yoruba well enough amongst other languages. I want her to be able to hold her own wherever she is. Because of this I speak Yoruba to her as much as I can (she will be 9 months soon). Yes I am razz like that, bite me! lol

An uncle of mine who works with the American embassy told me Yoruba language is hot cake in the States and there are Americans looking for people to teach them Yoruba. What am I even saying, my sister, once had a job in her school to teach one of her American lecturers Yoruba and she was getting paid per hour ( i think), no be say dem tell me. I tell you, this language we have so belittled has serious potential. And you are there feeling cool speaking Queen English. Proud that your children don't speak Yoruba. Yeye!

Yoruba is such a rich language and if we are not careful it will go into extinction with all this nonsense posh behaviour we acquired from only God knows where. Today, Latin is considered a dead language. Even though it is still taught in schools, there are no native, fluent speakers of Latin. What a shame!

We all need to do our part if we don’t want same happening to the Yoruba Language. I beg una, keep speaking the language. Hopefully our mentality will change gradually.

I have said my own o! If I have offended any one by this note, e ni binu ni o (don't be annoyed) because na true talk I talk and you know it. :)

Olorun a ko wa mo se (somebody please translate!) Lol