....It would be very gratifying to embark on a project whereby an African-American
who wanted to, could participate as a student in learning how to speak, read,
and write in Yoruba.
At this juncture, I would like to imagine Judge Glenda Hatchett as a student
under my tutelage. I would introduce her to her first Yoruba lesson, with the
Yoruba alphabets, as follows:
"A B D E E F G GB H I J K L M N O O P R S S T U W Y."
A a --> Ah
B b --> B
D d --> D
E e --> A as in "AYE"
E e --> E as in "EGG"
F f --> FEE
G g --> GHEE
GB gb --> GBEE
H h --> HE
I i --> E
J j --> GEE
K k --> KEE
L l --> LEE
M m --> ME
N n --> NEE
O o --> O
O o --> O as in "OR"
P p --> PPEEE
R r --> RE
S s --> C
S s --> SHE
T t --> T
U u --> WHO
W w --> WE
Y y --> YE
For a detailed pronunciation of the Yoruba language in audio format,
please visit this site Yoruba alphabets in audio
You will find the correct representation of the Yoruba alphabets
here, as listed above. A word of CAUTION! The Yoruba do not have the following letters:
Accordingly, after she might have mastered the correct
pronunciation of each and every letter in the Yoruba alphabets,
I would continue with the lesson by treating the variations of
vowel and consonant sounds therein.
I would continue with the lesson by pointing out to her that even
though some of the letters in the Yoruba alphabets look like
some of the letters in the English alphabets, only "B D O and T,"
can be construed to have the same pronunciation as the identical
letters in the English alphabets. It might then be necessary to
go over the alphabets, again and again.
The next lesson after this would deal with the pitch and word
patterns in Yoruba. The easiest technique one might employ to
teach how to pronounce any Yoruba word correctly uses
d/r/m (do/re/mi), as in a music lesson for beginners.
One would have to position tactfully the accent signs (\, -, /)
atop the vowel sounds in any Yoruba word, sounding them
correspondingly in succeeding order with each with each
respective musical pitch \ (do), - (re), / (mi).
For example, the word, "gogogongo" (meaning esophagus or
Adam's apple in English) should be pronounced "gogogongo"
("d:d:m:d"). The word, "Ab1momajeun," should be pronounced
"Abimomajeun" ("r:m:r:m:r:r"). An explanation of the
meaning of the Yoruba word, "Abimomajeun," would
appear later on in our studies.
I have thus far aimed at reacquainting my African-American
cousins with the Yoruba language, which was one of the African
languages that slavery had so forcefully attempted to make
them forget. The aim of the 'slave masters,' hitherto, was
an attempt to displace a "'slave's'" mother tongue with
the English language.
Unwittingly or wittingly, the "'slaves'" had adopted an evolving
language form, the African-American (Black) English mode
of communication. Its evolvement was a consequence of their
efforts to diminish the mental anguish they had suffered in
their attempt to assimilate and acculturate themselves in a
"'New World'" that might have seemed to them worse than the
"twilight zone." The various "Black-English" dialects that
have evolved from the period of "'slavery''' to this day, are due
to the praise-worthy ingenuity of those "'enslaved'" African
heroes and heroines. They survived "the test of time" in body;
and their "souls keep marching on" in spirit centuries after their death.
In comparison, in an effort to speak the English language in the
Yoruba Kingdom there had evolved a mode of communication
called "Yoruba-English," or "Pidgin-English, beside the
proper Queen's English parley by an elitist group--the
so-called educated class. "Yoruba-English" or "Pidgin-English"
has been a romantic and idealistic mode of communication
by all and sundry within the Yoruba Kingdom.
For example "Who born monkey?" is a metaphorical pidgin
question that literally means "Who is he, or she?" with
a sarcastic overtone.
It is an historical fact that a vast majority of Africa-American
ancestors were Yoruba people forced into captivity during the era
of slavery and extracted away from their motherland, the
Yoruba Kingdom. According to the historian, Basil Davidson,
"Some of these were brought into the country not under their
own names; but under those their captors knew them by. It was
by such names that they were delivered by the traders to the
markets of the New World. The Yoruba, enslaved by the Fon
people of Dahomey to the west of them, were known as Nagos,
and entered America under that name."
This historical fact has been equally attested to by
Dr. Ulysses Duke Jenkins, who explained that:
"The achievement(s) of the Yoruba(s) in other parts of the
world are also credible. Some of the slaves imported into
America were Yoruba(s). It cannot be regarded otherwise
than just and fair that the Yoruba(s) at home should have
a share in the credit due to their kith and kin: the black man
(and woman) in America."
Dr Ulysses Jenkins continues, "Two instances may be cited here.
The late Booker T. Washington, the distinguished black man who
founded Tuskegee Institute in the United States of America,
was a man of real fiber and brilliant achievement. His career
was one which would bring credit to any nation which could claim
him as a member. There is no doubt that he was of Yoruba
extraction, as his middle name "Taniafeni" is unquestionably
a Yoruba name which is still in use in Yorubaland, especially
among the Egba(s). Again, the Negro spirituals, which have
thrilled the western world and which show the delicate pathos
of the black man/woman are a development of "negro" music as used by the Yoruba(s)."
The name, "Taniafeni" ("Tanifeni/Taniferon/Taniferan") which
stood for the middle initial of Booker "T" Washington, means
"Who loves someone/you?" and/or "The one who loves, loves you and me."
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