I’m writing this introduction while my two children are causing madness around me. Toys and rice everywhere. Normal ‘two under two’ mess and chaos. One starts crying. I hear my husband ask one of them “Ki lo de?” – (What’s the matter). This is how I currently learn Yoruba. Through my children. They soak it up like a sponge, whereas I try to hold it in my brain with sticky plaster and old glue while the paint peels off my memory. Some phrases stay there and I use them myself: “Ki lo fe je?” – (What do you want to eat?). Others I recognise but can’t put my finger on exactly what they mean or how to use them. My husband works hard at using Yoruba around the house and during the day, easier said when you’re the only one who can use it fluently.
But we are trying. And I know some Yoruba nursery rhymes very well. Lyrics onto music and the repetition that comes with singing can mean your brain retains the words and their meaning more successfully than if you just try to learn a sentence by itself. It’s also way more fun, which also helps the learning process for us! I know this because I am a Speech and Language Therapist by trade and I know this also because I can feel it instinctively just as a human being.
Yoruba is not a language spoken frequently in the majority white British society our children are growing up in for most of the year here in Nottingham. It’s not like French or Spanish, where you might find 400 apps just by googling ‘learn French.’ As a family we have to work harder to access resources in the West for this beautiful and critical language. It is similar to another language close to my heart: British Sign Language. (BSL). It’s not always easy to access resources to learn this language either. As with BSL, Yoruba language is essential and so heavily entwined with culture. The way in which a Yoruba phrase might change or adapt depending on who you are talking to, “E se Mummy” as opposed to “O se.” – (Thank you).
The fact that there are 1001 greetings in Yoruba suggests alone how important greeting someone is when you meet them in Nigeria. I am learning, both as a mum, wife, daughter-in-law and as a Speech and Language Therapist. It has been good for me to see how trying to create a bilingual family is not as easy as it might seem, from both sides of my coin: professional, and woman.
What will I bring to this blog? My learning experience alongside my knowledge of language development. The two are sometimes in tune, at other times in conflict. But I’ll share with you tips I have found useful, the challenges we face, and what the evidence says might be a good way to move forward. I do not know Yoruba, I am a beginner in many ways, so maybe you can join me on that journey as I also navigate the pathway of parenthood.