My boys were having fun counting each morsel of ‘eba’ as I fed them the other night. After a while, I thought it would be more fun to have them count in ‘Yoruba’ language. They had learned to count from one through 10 when they were much younger. It’d been a while they had counted, but I was sure they still remembered very well. They could skip a number or two in between, but they usually do pretty well.

So I turned to my 4-year-old, and said “Oya (common now), count in Yoruba”.

He looked into my eyes and stared for a while. I wondered what he was looking at. I was sure he knew how to count in Yoruba, so I waited. After what seemed like 60 seconds, I repeated myself in case he didn’t hear me the first time.
He smiled, and then suddenly roared, squeezing his face, and throwing his hands up in the air.
I thought to myself, “What in the world?”

And then, almost immediately, I laughed out loudly.

Here’s the reason why I laughed; although they knew how to count (in Yoruba), I don’t think they ever knew that the language they counted in was Yoruba. I had always started out by saying “let’s count ‘ookan’ (one)”. When they hear this, they know to start counting in Yoruba. And so my guess was that he didn’t think he knew how to speak/say the numbers in Yoruba. So, telling them to count in Yoruba was strange, and they had no clue.

But what in the world? I thought to myself. He must have been thinking to himself why I wanted him to count in Yoruba when he didn’t know how to. What I should have said was, “Oya, count ookan.” As far as he was concerned, he had never spoken Yoruba before, but he’d heard myself and my husband communicate in a different language – Yoruba. That language was what he tried to speak when he gave the loud groan, throwing his hands up in the air.

That made me think; Is this what my husband and I look like when we speak this language? Is this how we sound when speak – with groans, and facial impressions that look like we are in child labor? Is this what people look like to us when they speak their own ‘Yoruba’? All he wanted to do was speak the language….

And then I got the message. There are thousands of languages all over the world, and it is hard to pass a message across especially when you don’t speak the language. There are languages that sound like melodious tunes in your ears when in fact the words could be insulting. And there are languages that sound like a bull-dozer coming out from your mouth, or languages that are usually complemented with hand gestures that make it look like you’re about to start a war (Yoruba to be precise), and even some that sound like someone just stole your cookie, even though the words said are prayers for you.

Anyway, the lesson I learned is that different languages sound differently to different people. There is only one language though that cuts across the globe – that sounds and means the same thing – LOVE

When we speak and act Love, even my friends from Kabba, IleOluji, Timbuktu, Indianapolis, and Lokoja understand.
Speak Love, and let your message be heard all over the world!

Yoruba is one of the many tribal languages spoken in the southern part of Nigeria. There are 25 letters in the Yoruba alphabets, with the similar ones characterized by accents or hyphens above or beneath the letters. Some other tribal languages spoken in Nigeria include Hausa, and Ibo)

4 thoughts on “Learning to Speak ‘Love’

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