....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
A word of CAUTION!
You will find the correct representation of the Yoruba alphabets here, as listed above.
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,
"Abomomajeun," 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,'
was an attempt to displace a "'slave's'" mother tongue with the
Unwittingl 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
"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
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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