Bi won ba n beere pe kin ni awa Yoruba sonu ju laye yii, ede ati asa wa ni.
If they ask what we Yoruba’s throw away the most in this world, it’s our language and our culture.
I’ve been pondering over this question for a while now; Why is it that some Nigerian parents don’t teach their children their mother tongue?
I have come across so many Nigerian’s who do NOT know how to speak their mother tongue. Simply because their parents didn’t teach them. Ok fine, there aren’t many Yoruba language classes in the UK, but you can teach your children Yoruba within your home. I’ve come across parents who don’t believe in the importance of speaking their native language any longer and insist that English is far more important.
Granted, English is a great essential language, especially in the Western part of the world but learning your mother tongue is too. I’m using Yoruba as an example as it’s my mother tongue and I know so many Yoruba people who do not speak Yoruba and sometimes ask me to translate things for them! I find that this is often caused when parents relocate to the UK or the USA and develop an inferiority complex into believing that English is all they and their children need to be speaking and ultimately that their native language is no longer needed. WRONG! When children grow up and cannot speak their mother tongue, they are only going to be annoyed at their parents. When they travel back to Nigeria and everyone around them is speaking Yoruba and they cannot, that is where the embarrassment and frustration surfaces.
I have a Yoruba friend who moved to Nigeria after landing herself her dream job within the oil industry. She met her now husband shortly after her move and went to meet his family members before getting married. To cut that very long story short, let’s just say that her in-laws laughed at her in a pitiful manner based on the fact that she didn’t speak a word of Yoruba and neither did she understand much of the culture. At the age of 32, married with 2 children, she’s now teaching herself Yoruba from home and has developed a level of resentment towards her parents who didn’t take the time to teach her Yoruba.
As a mother who has never lived in Nigeria, but yet speaks, reads and writes Yoruba fluently, I cannot stress the importance of teaching your children your mother tongue and encouraging cultural competence. At 10 months old, my daughter can follow commands in Yoruba and even utter the odd words. At present, she says ‘gba’ (take) when she hands something over to me and ‘bo’ (shortened from odabo meaning bye) when she waves. I don’t encourage her to spend hours in front of the television, but when she does get an opportunity to watch a programme, we have a few favourite YouTube channels such as Bino and Fino and Culture Tree TV who showcase educational cartoons and nursery rhymes in Yoruba, raising cultural awareness, cultural competence and instilling pride in Yoruba culture.
I grew up in a household where Yoruba was all we spoke. Being proud of my Nigerian and African heritage was heavily endorsed by both my mother and grandmother. If ever I was asked a question in Yoruba and replied back in English, I was quickly corrected, as this was seen to be rude in the Yoruba culture. Which was fantastic, because this led me to ask how I was meant to reply back in Yoruba and therefore, I learnt for the next time.
Why is it that many Indian’s migrate to the UK and still maintain their language and culture, yet we don’t? Are we ashamed of our language and culture? Has colonialism ingrained high levels of inferiority in us to the point where we longer want to be a part of our culture unless it’s for fashion, music or financial gain?
All comments are welcome, especially if you are a parent reading this I would love to hear your thoughts. Whether you speak a second language or not. Please feel free to comment below.
Thank you for reading.