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May 6, 2012

My dear family and friends,

It gives me great pleasure to present to you a Yoruba language learning resource through the use of the Yoruba Bible. It is instructive to note that the Yoruba language was first reduced to writing in the early nineteenth century by Christian missionaries. Bishop Samuel Ajai Crowther was a prominent figure among these pioneers. Bishop Crowther then translated the holy bible to Yoruba shortly thereafter. It is logical to return to this valuable resource in our days for the double benefit of engaging scripture and maintaining proficiency in the use of the language of our birth. We can then reacquaint ourselves with the beauty of our mother tongue and also acquire a renewed understanding of our own language and culture. 

One of the difficulties the ‘occasional student’ of Yoruba or the heritage learner encounters today is the existence of Yoruba texts (books, journals, magazines  etc.) that were written during the various stages of the development of the orthography of the language. In these materials, the conventional spelling and word order vary depending on the period of writing. The different editions of the bible in print are a prime example of this phenomenon. These days Yoruba text online and Nollywood movie titles/subtitles with little or no attention paid to correct rendering of Yoruba text are very common. Under the current circumstances a condition of ‘orthographic anarchy’ exists!! This creates a lot of confusion for the beginner and therefore the growth and development of our language is stunted. It is not in the best interest of our language to continue propagating atrocious spelling and word order.

According to a popular adage, ‘anything that is worth doing is worth doing well’. We must therefore begin with a solid foundation through knowledge of Yoruba orthography. Simply put, orthography refers to correct conventional spelling of a language according to established usage. The Yoruba bible is a very rich and formidable repository of the vocabulary of the language. This resource is well suited to illustrate the evolution of Yoruba orthography and showcase the most current accepted form. This will then set the stage for our learning the language anew. A ‘must read’ publication in the public domain in this regard is Orthographies of Nigerian Languages, Manual 1 published by National Language Centre and edited by Emeritus Professor Ayo Bamgbose.

It is very important to also note that most of us have developed the habit of speaking Yoruba but hardly read it and almost never write it anymore. As a result, the growth of Yoruba has been stunted to the detriment of us all. We can remedy this by a renewed commitment to change this practice and restart our Yoruba language learning on a sound footing. All the modalities - writing, reading, listening, and speaking must be brought to bear on this exercise for it to yield the greatest benefit. This is what was intended with the production of our Yoruba language primer, Yorùbá : Mọ̀ ọ́n kọ, Mọ̀ ọ́n kà, in the first place. In doing this we will be setting an example for the next generation. We have to lead by example. If we want our kids to learn and accept the language we must show that we too are interested in it and are using it. This is a tall order but I believe we are duty bound to do it as a legacy to future generations.

Just because one speaks the language does not mean one can teach it properly. I spent many years and expended a lot of effort myself to learn the language afresh under expert teachers – and continue to learn day by day. I acknowledge with the greatest respect and gratitude the encouragement and mentoring I have received over the years from prominent Yoruba language scholars. The late Emeritus Professor Adeboye Babalola reviewed my first publication and pointed me in the right direction. Emeritus Professor Ayo Bamgbose, a driving force in the development of Yoruba orthography and Professor Antonia Yetunde Folarin Schleicher of the University of Wisconsin at Madison have been very supportive. I have also had the priviledge of being a member of African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) based in the U.S.A. for several years. I was not considered as an amateur encroaching on specialized territory but as a vehicle of transmission of the products of their expertise from academia to the public sphere for the benefit of all.

I embarked on theological studies a few years ago, earning a Masters of Theological Studies degree (MTS) from Wycliffe College at The University of Toronto in 2007, in order to have a more detailed knowledge of the subject.

Let us now begin our journey together into Yoruba and bible studies.

For this exercise, I have chosen I Corinthians 13 as our starting point. First, read Orthographies of Nigerian Languages, Manual 1 and then compare and contrast the early and late bible editions of the scripture passage noting the differences in the text. 

Yours truly  
[email protected]
in order to put into practice what I am preaching, the Yoruba translation of this letter (yet to be completed) is also included here. Please help!!!  

    The materials (pdf  and ppt files) provided are as follows:   

      1.  Orthographies of Nigerian Languages, Manual 1  (Yoruba) – Ed. Ayo Bamgbose

  2.   1 Corinthians 13 (Two different Yoruba editions)

  3.   1  Corinthians 13  (Yoruba with sound)

  4.   1 Corinthians 13 English/Yoruba

  5.   Yoruba Primer


Yoruba Bibles

International Bible Association - Bibeli Mimo   http://internationalbibleassociation.com

2.  Bible Society of Nigeria (Yoruba side by side with English- KJV) www.biblesociety-nigeria.org

3.  The Bible Society of Nigeria (from Edition of 1900 - corrected 2003)

4.  The Bible League (First Printed in 2005)  http://www.thebibleleague.org

5.  Yoruba Bible Online       http://www.africanportal.net/ABO/BibeliAtoka

6.  Yoruba Audio Bible (Online)   http://www.yorubabible.com



All opinion expressed in this article are entirely the author's and are undoubtedly not without any mistakes. Please feel free to point them out for correction.


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