Don’t be Discouraged: Five Comebacks for Those Who Laugh at Your Yoruba

Learning Yoruba? Still working on your accent? Your vocabulary? Yoruba people tend to find great humor in new learners. They will chuckle at your missed tones, wrong vocabulary and your “Igbo” accent. Well, we believe that fluent speakers should be the first to partner with learners in supporting them to learn the language. But if you come across an aunty or cousin, for example, who finds it drop dead funny that you are still in the learning phase of your native tongue and you miss a word or tone here and there, here are some great comebacks that are almost sure to get them to back off:


1. “Don’t make fun of my Yoruba and I won’t make fun of your Heenglish.”

Most of the people making fun of your growing Yoruba skills probably don’t speak perfect English—or have perfect English accents—themselves. Glass houses…throw stones. You might just want to smile while you remind them of this…to avoid getting cursed out in Yoruba. In fact, the smile might not save you. If you’re saying this to an elder, make sure you have one foot out the door.


2. “Die die naa ni. Se e mo pe Rome wasn’t built in a day?”

It takes six months to build a Rolls Royce, and thirteen hours to build a Toyota. Many Yoruba proverbs note the value that nothing worthwhile happens overnight. You may just have to remind your heckler of this. You’re learning, and it’s a process. “Die die naa ni” is a very popular saying in Yorubaland which eludes to the importance of process. It literally means “little by little.” Elders take much more kindly to this one.


3. “Igbo Yoruba is better than no Yoruba.”

Many will tell you that you’re speaking “Igbo Yoruba.” Supposed to allude to the fact that when Igbos speak Yoruba, they speak it with an accent. Just like when the Chinese learn English, they speak it with an accent; and when Italians learn French, they speak it with an accent; and when Americans learn Spanish, they speak it with an accent… The accent is normal. Don’t take it personal. The most important part of this comeback is to laugh with them, because let’s face it, the insult is a little funny.


4. “Are your children fluent in Yoruba?”

About 70% or more of Yoruba people under the age of 35 don’t speak Yoruba. If the person making fun of you is old enough to have children—even if their children are preschoolers—chances are, they don’t speak a lick of Yoruba. Or they have a five-word Yoruba vocabulary. If you bring this up ever so slyly, the heckler is bound to be a little embarrassed. Enough to pipe down and go teach their child(ren) at least a few more Yoruba words.


5. “Pronounce this sentence: ‘Her hair is here.'”

If you don’t know why this one is good, we can’t help you here. Best way to find out is to try it on anyone who speaks perfect Yoruba—it helps if their English isn’t perfect.


Happy Learning!

Fluent? Read How Yoruba Speakers Can Help learners.

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