“So you don’t speak yoruba?” She asks incredulously
“No.” I respond
“Because I am not yoruba”
“But every one speaks yoruba”
“No, Everyone speaks English”
The above conversation is something I have heard my whole adult life and it is really starting to get on my nerves. Let me back track.
Yoruba happens to be one of the three major ethnic groups in my country(We have 250). I happen to belong to one of the other 250. Now I grew up in Lagos, which is technically a yoruba state, but is the commercial hub of Nigeria, so every tribe lives there and EVERYONE speaks a form of English be it pidgin or otherwise. My High School was owned by an Igbo man and frankly everyone spoke English. My worst subject was Yoruba (we had to undertake at least one language course and there were two options-Yoruba and Igbo, soo..emmm…yea). Suffice to say, I always had Ds..(I think I had one C once). Long story short, I skipped it in the final exams (As it turns it, it wasn’t so important, and it didn’t spoil my perfect GPA)
So I go off to the University and there it started. Now my university was in my homestate (not a yoruba state) and being private and expensive, it was open to any tribe who can afford it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I happen to have 3 yoruba roommates, who couldn’t believe that I didn’t know the language. Their shock was always so amusing. I would ask them, why do I have to learn it? They would be like, you live in Lagos. I respond….EVERYONE lives in Lagos. They would insist that I have to learn it because people would insult me in Yoruba if I didn’t. (I will come back to this point later). I always diffuse the situation, promising to learn it one day. This went on and on for 5 years.
Now, in my opinion, this isn’t a trait that other tribes adopt because I spent one year in the north(before Boko haram). Many people don’t even speak English but they don’t really care. I found the northerners very accommodating. Then my favourite lines were “Ba hausa’ (No hausa).They would smile and try to explain whatever needs explaining in fleeting english. So I adopted the same for the Yorubas in my life saying “Mi o gbo Yoruba” (I don’t understand Yoruba). Their response is either but you are speaking it now. or the usual ‘Why’. Why WHY WHY……I am really tired of being asked why I do not understand a language that is neither my mother tongue or the official language of my country.
And like a glutton for punishment, I got married……………to a yoruba man. (Yeah, face palm). Fortunately, he is cool with it and is amused by my attempts to speak it. His parents are cool as well and we communicate with wonderful English, but people won’t just leave me ALONE!!!!
In our Bahrain women society, there are majorly yoruba women. Now there is just I and other lady who are also married to yoruba men and are not yoruba. So when we are hassled about it, she says she intends to learn. I say the truth, I am not interested in learning. They always seem shocked that I am not willing to learn. One would think that my abrupt answer is enough to make them leave me alone, but nooooooooo.
So last night, the issue came up once again. I said I won’t learn a language because people EXPECT me to. I will learn it because I WANT to and because I want my kids to know their father’s language. Aside from that, there is no amount of harassment that would bully me in learning. Again she respond. “You have to learn it now, its your husband’s language and you would know when people are insulting you”. My response. “People can insult you in any language…. igbo,yoruba, greek, french, italian… Are you going to learn all the languages so you would ‘know’? Why would I care if someone insults me in something I don’t understand? How does that affect me?” Her response “Aisha is a lawyer.She likes to argue’. (WOW, on a topic I didn’t bring up. what a real mature response) Was I offended by that? Yea I was a little,but it was not worth it
Now I want to know. Why do yorubas always give the reason of being insulted in their language as a reason to learn it? Are they saying that they are very insulting, because that is not a compliment to them and definitely not a good reason for anyone to want to learn the language.Now I know a number of non yoruba girls married to yorubas who have learnt the language. Kudos to them. I also know those who haven’t. As long as the people who matter do not complain (and if they do, that’s another topic for another day), it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. As long as I can communicate with everyone, it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. And if you choose to insult me in a language that I don’t understand, then that’s NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
Sorry, I know this is a rant, but I am QUITE fed up.
So drop a line. Am I being overly dramatic? Do you disagree with me? let’s chat.