Learn Yoruba

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About Yoruba

Yoruba is one of Nigeria’s most spoken languages along with Igbo, Hausa, English and Nigerian Pidgin. It is mostly spoken in the south west part of Nigeria and in Benin, where about 17% of the population speaks it. Like Fon and Ewe, Yoruba is a Volta-Niger language, part of a family which spreads from Nigeria to Eastern Ghana. There are three tones in Yoruba - high, middle and low - which affect the meaning of words. Yoruba has borrowed a lot of vocabulary from Arabic and Hausa. It can also double words for extra emphasis.

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Fun facts — Yoruba

  • Tonal pronunciation helps distinguish the word bàtà (meaning a shoe) from the word bàtá (a type of drum).
  • There’s a saying, 'a sculptor is summoned and the woodpecker shows up', which means never think too highly of yourself.
  • Another proverb, 'the king’s palace that got burnt added beauty to it', means that every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Yoruba names are traditionally chosen for their meaning such as ‘God gave me joy’ or ‘wealth has become more’.

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