Appreciating our Mother Tongue: The Yoruba Exemplar.

By Oluwatobiloba Lawal
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The Yoruba Language is the official language of the Yorubas, the language portrays the culture, customs and tradition of the above mentioned race. The language is very rich in cultural values and is well studied in countries all over the world including but not limited to Togo, Benin, Gambia, Brazil, Cuba and North America.

Sadly, Yoruba Language has lost its enviable position earlier enjoyed in the society, the relevance and importance of the language has reduced drastically. The rationale behind this fallout is the attitude of the populace towards the Language. A large percentage of us have developed cold feet towards our mother tongue because of the premium placed on English. We have become holier than the Pope, we prioritize English more than the Englishmen who originally owns the language.

Gone are the days where young minds show interest in learning and getting acquainted with their native language. Today, this generation takes pride in learning the Queen's accent of speaking English at the detriment of their indigenous language. Parents outlaw the speaking of Yoruba in their homes and strictly communicate with their children in English. Also, they scold their wards who communicate with other children in Yoruba. The society has a fair share of the blame, the society is structured to belittle and beat to death our native language. You dare not communicate in a formal setting in Yoruba, you won't be taken serious or rather be seen as a low-life.

Worse still, Children of Yoruba lineage find it difficult to speak their mother tongue just for the societal lust for English Language. Abiola can't pronounce the Yoruba name "ABIOLA" rightly, Oluwatumininu can't exchange normal pleasantries using Yoruba Language, Olatunbosun can't conveniently speak Yoruba for five minutes without code mixing, their aunt, Mojisola who is 30 can't complete the very common Yoruba proverb " Inu ile lati k'eso rode" which is echoed in English as "Charity begins at home". Contrastingly, the Englishmen whom we seek to imitate revere their language and does not consider it a vernacular as we consider ours. They think, reason, communicate and convey their thoughts using their native language. Echoing the thoughts of Professor Olumuyiwa Falaiye, Creativity and intuitive thinking reaches its peak with reasoning in one's native language. This to a large extent justify the richness of Fagunwa's Yoruba Literature.

Furthermore, Language is a carrier of culture. The continuous existence of the Yoruba Language facilitates the continuous existence of the Yoruba Culture as idioms, proverbs and expressions in Yoruba language brings to fore the beliefs of the tribe. Preserving our language means not loosing touch with our identity and cultural heritage. In the simplest form, speaking in our different Yoruba dialects alone identifies where one originates from. Therefore, we can trace our lineage and origin from speaking Yoruba alone.

Relying on the Yoruba proverb that says: " Omo ti a ko ba ko, ni gbe ile ti a ko ta" meaning "the child we failed to train, becomes the black sheep of the house", the society duly suffer from not appreciating our indigenous language. Our wards exhibit the widest form of immoral behavior which in turn contribute a larger percentage of the adversity in our society. The "Eko ile" culture of the Yorubas would have done justice to that but for ungratefulness, ill treatment and lack of interest in our native language.

In conclusion, Yorubas would say " ati kekere ni imale ti n ko omo e l'esin" meaning "Muslims teach their offsprings the Islamic religion from their tender age", this is necessary to save the religion from extinction. We must enjoin to teach our children our native language, let them imbibe our culture and tradition for continuity.

We should wonder and ask ourselves why the Whites wants to learn Yoruba Language at all cost. They travel from their homeland to learn our native language in our country, they have also gone as far as adopting our native language as their official language, a very popular example is Brazil. Also, they practice our culture and tradition in their own clime, Oyotunji in North America is a worthy example. This should reawaken our consciousness and serve as a clarion call for us all to revere and appreciate our mother tongue noting its importance and uniqueness in preserving our identity and cultural heritage.

Like we will always say at the end of every clarion call to Yoruba descendants, Yoruba e ronu o, Oodua a gbe wa, Ire o.

Oluwatobiloba Lawal is an African Language, Literature and Culture Enthusiast. He is also a researcher in Yoruba studies.