This is a list of Yorùbá language books I have collected over the years. The first course in this list was published by myself and is free to download: the great and unique Yorùbá Melody Audio Course, developed with the help of linguist Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún from www.yorubaname.com and many more friends and olorisha from all over the world, see the page about the course. Some of the other courses in this list can also be officially downloaded for free. The reviews are written from my personal point of view, which combines olorisha with language student. A typical and popular combination today, which is not yet reflected in the books on the market!

I started taking classes at the Yorùbá Cultural Institute in New York. Later I moved back to Europe, it was difficult finding a Yorùbá teacher. I started to work with native speakers, who usually do not have experience in language education. I had to provide the materials by myself, so I searched for literature. There are many books on the market in English language. If you don’t have access to professional classes, my advice is to search for the help of a native speaker and prepare your own classes. This means a lot of work and you will depend on good resources. Here’s my list of Yorùbá language courses as an inspiration. Also, check our list of Yorùbá dictionaries and read the Yorùbá Publishing Manual
 

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Orishaimage and Yorubaname (ed.): Yorùbá Melody Audio Course. English, Español, Português, Deutsch. Creative Commons, 2017

To download this phrasebook for olorisha please go to this page on the blog: Yorùbá Melody Audio Course. You can also listen to it online via Soundcloud. The course has 22 chapters, runs 90 minutes, and is available for free. It addresses especially olorisha and cultural tourists who want to travel to Yorùbáland. It is a phrasebook covering basic topics and a short introduction to the language. It can give you a first impression how Yorùbá works and can accompany your language studies. Repeated listening helps you to remember important phrases. Available in four languages! I wanted to produce a course for the target audience of Yorùbá language courses, so “Yorùbá Melody” has a lot of phrases for olorisha. You won’t find them in the other books.

 

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Fẹ̀hìntọlá Mosádomi, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, The University of Texas at Austin (ed.): Yorùbá Yé Mi. A Beginning Yorùbá Textbook. Austin, 2011

Published under Creative Commons License this beginner’s course, including a working book and lots of audio files, is published for free and can be downloaded on the university’s website. It’s a complete modern course, well structured, features dialogues and small texts on various topics, chapters on grammar, vocabulary exercises. It is a step-by-step introduction to the language and the typical cultural issues embedded into a modern educational concept. Good layout. Highly recommended for all beginners! I printed and bound the PDF file to work with it in my classes and always had the MP3 audio files on my mobile with me. Thank you to the editors of this project! 
Website

 

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Karin Barber and Akin Oyètádé: Yorùbá Wuyì. Ìwé Kìíní (Book One). A Beginners’ Course in Yorùbá. Hakuna Matata Press Èdè Publications, London, 2000

This book is meant to get the students talking and includes four audio CDs. The book is a revised edition of “Yorùbá Dùn ún sọ”, which was published several years before (see below). The book has very good grammatical explanations, sections on cultural details, many dialogues and funny illustrations. It focuses on the way how Yorùbá is spoken. Vowel assimilation is a topic, as well as the shortening of words and phrases and dialect variants are mentioned. Here you won’t find “Èwo ni o fẹ́?” – instead it is “Èwo lo fẹ́?”, as used in daily routine. “Ẹja mìíràn can also be pronounced ẹja mìíìn”, is another example. What makes this book so special is that the changing tone patterns are described in detail, something that is missing in other courses. You can read annotations like “Pronounced on a flattened mid tone due to the effect of the Assimilated Low Tone explained on page 102”. This sounds complicated, but by studying with this book you will get a feeling for tonal qualities. “After a high-tone verb, the object pronoun is on a mid-tone, after a mid-tone verb, the object pronoun is on a high (level high) tone, etc.”. It mentions difficulties with written and spoken language. “Orí n fọ́ ọ” could mean “you have– ” or “he/she has a headache”, but the pronunciation is different: 3rd person is a smooth glide at the end, while in 2nd person the vowels can be heard separately. The authors wrote “Òrìṣà” with a capital “O”, what shows their respect for the Yorùbá deities. No Evangelical worldview in this book. One of the best courses.

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Antonia Yétúndé Fọlárìn Schleicher: Jé K’Á Sọ Yorùbá/Jé K’Á Ka Yorùbá. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993

This series of two books, one called “Let’s Talk Yorùbá”, the other one “Let’s Read Yorùbá”, set the standard for the Yorùbá classroom. The latter one is an intermediate course. The layout could need modernization, but they are both good books that can be recommended. It addresses reading, writing, speaking and listening skills and focuses on practical everyday communication. The liner notes talk about some available “audio cassettes”, but I have not found any digital files to download. Small texts explain Yorùbá cultural topics, monologues and dialogues introduce new vocabulary, pronunciation exercises help you to develop a higher fluency in speaking. Well-structured and interesting.  

 

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Antonia Yétúndé Fọlárìn Schleicher: Colloquial Yoruba. The Complete Course for Beginners. Routledge, New York, 2008

This 250-page book originally came with two CDs, today the audiofiles to be downloaded for free on the publisher's website. A digital Kindle or PDF edition is available. It is meant to give the student the opportunity to learn without a teacher. It features very realistic Yorùbá dialogues and it also addresses the community of olorisha or second-generation Nigerians in the US, as there are e.g. dialogues speaking about Orisha traditions in Brazil or the multi-ethnic background in Brooklyn, comparing it to Lagos. The layout is up to date, the structure of the course is great. This book has the best graphic design of all these courses. So-called “language points” explain not only grammar but give you a deeper insight on the Yorùbá view of the world, e.g. explain the different time-relations or how to speak about sickness. In my opinion it is the best course available on the market and very practical. I combined it with some more theoretical books on grammar. Recommended. 
Website

 

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Earl W. Stevick, Olaleye Aremu, Foreign Service Institute (ed.): Yoruba Basic Course/Yoruba Intermediate Texts. Washington D.C., 1963. (PDF/MP3)

The US Foreign Service Institute once provided many local language courses for their diplomats and the Peace Corps. In 1967 they published a course on Yorùbá, that was digitalized by the Live Lingua Project (MP3 & PDF) and is now under public domain. It can be downloaded free of charge. There is a Basic Course available – 350 pages and 13 hours of audiofiles – and an Intermediate Course – 250 pages and 1 hour of audiofiles. The material is useful, has a huge focus on the “Tone Drill Series”, just the sound quality of the recording is a bit antiquated, but as it is free, you can’t complain about that. The texts cover many different topics and every phrase is available as MP3. The diacritics for the different tone levels, especially gliding tones, at that time have been written a little bit different than today, but they are added very carefully to the texts. Be aware, many people sell this free course under different names! 
Website

 

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Kayode J.Fakinlede: Beginner’s Yoruba. Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York, 2018 (with online audio files)
Kayode J.Fakinlede: Beginner’s Yoruba. Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York, 2010 (with two audio CDs)

Two editions of one book. The 280-page book originally came with two audio CDs. The new edition has two new features: a new cover design and audio files which are now online to download at the publisher's website. One of the problems the book still has is that it uses a font which does not feature underdotted letters. The underdotted letters in this book are correct and all there, but they are substituted in another typeface, what looks strange. A common problem we discussed in the Yoruba Publishing Manual. The graphic design is not very cool. With simple frames around the texts it looks like a document written with Microsoft Word. Otherwise, this publication has profound topics on Yorùbá grammar which I have not found in other books, like the section on numerals. The dialogues are useful, a few cultural aspects are discussed and the vocabulary section is solid, the audio files are good quality. This is the contemporary urban Yorùbá with lots of loanwords from English, like dokita, sobujeeti, bisineesi, lati beta, ofiisi, teniisi (yes, this means tennis). It is not the vocabulary you need for the world of Orisha. The new edition addresses olorisha on the back cover, mentioning the "Santería religion of the Caribbean" and "Yorùbá words found in Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion". The publishing house spotted a new market. You won't find Orisha prayers or songs in this book, instead sentences like „My grandfather was a traditional believer, but he loved all of us very much. He was a man of God.“ Hm. It's a good book though for beginners, recommended for the daily situations.
Website

     

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E.C. Rowlands: Yoruba. A complete guide and introduction. The English Universities Press Ltd, Edinburgh, 1969. / E.C. Rowlands: Yoruba. A complete course for beginners. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, Kent, 1998

In the image you see two versions of the same book, one is the edition from 1969, the other one is a reprint from 1998. Rowland’s book is a hidden gem. I found them online on used book platforms like Abebooks or Ebay. For me, this is one of the best books about Yorùbá language. You cannot compare it to the modern educational publications. This book won’t teach you everyday communication and it is not based on a pedagogical concept. It is more a linguistic study broken down into a language everyone can easily understand. It has the best explanations on various topics of Yorùbá language you are likely to come across in other books, without having them explained there. It has e.g. a chapter about the auxiliary word “fi”, a chapter on “repetition and reduplication”, and “special words” like “ojú, ẹnu, ara, ìdí” etc. Every chapter has an exercise in a traditional sense: a translation from English into Yorùbá or vice-versa. I can highly recommend this book, it can make the work you do with the other books more complete and gives you a deep insight into grammar. All the phrases in this book have been recorded with a native speaker in 1971 on a university. These files were digitalized and circulate in the Brazilian olorixá community, but the recording is not available officially.

 

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EuroTalk Ltd: Rhythms Easy Yoruba. Audible Audio Edition, 2011, 58 min.

This audio-course is good to learn simple phrases and basic vocabulary for beginners. Male and female native speakers pronounce word by word or phrase by phrase and then give you the English translation. You have some time to repeat it and practice the tones. There is no reading necessary and you can combine learning Yorùbá with other activities. I always listened to it on the subway. You are going to learn how to greet people, order a beer or buy some foods on the market. This is a standard set of vocabulary for tourists, translated into dozens of languages by EuroTalk Ltd. Some phrases like “Where’s the beach?“ won’t be very useful, others like “Please speak more slowly“ will help you on your journey through Yorùbáland. I liked the course, by simple repeated listening you can easily learn vocabulary, and it inspired me to publish a phrasebook especially for the needs of olorisha (the first one in this list). “Rhythms Easy Yoruba” can be downloaded in the iTunes Store or on Amazon, for example. Recommended for the lazy people.

 

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Karin Barber: Yorùbá dùn ún sọ (Book One). Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1985

“Yorùbá is pleasant to speak” is the title of this nice book. It is completely handwritten and illustrated by the author with small, quickly sketched drawings. The book was developed on the university of Ilé-Ifẹ̀ and is a vehicle designed to stimulate the students to speak. The grammatical explanations are very short and many exercises and dialogues are the core of the lessons. The book gives the teacher a rough outline for a lesson, you need to study it with a native speaker. It is good as an additional source when you are just starting to take Yorùbá lessons together with other people and you have someone who can explain the grammar to you. There is also a second book of this series available. Printed by the University of Ìbàdàn today it is sold very cheap for around 500 Naira. Some Nigerian bookshops even ship to Europe or the US. 

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Felix Ayoh'Omidire: Àkọ̀gbádùn. ABC da Língua, Cultura e Civilização Iorubanas. EDUFBA, Salvador, 2004. 

The author is professor of Afro-Latin-American Studies at the Department of Foreign Languages, Ọbáfẹmi Awólọ́wọ̀ University, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, Nigeria and director of the Institute of Cultural Studies. He lived for many years in Brazil where he was teaching Yorùbá (spelled Ioruba there), see the detailed interview with him on this blog. The 313-page book comes with an audio CD, unfortunately I did not get the CD when I ordered the book from Brazil. Published in Salvador da Bahia, the capital of Orisha culture in South America, the book is full of songs and praise poetry and many chapters about music and Orisha that explain various aspects of grammar. It is the only professional Yorùbá course book I know with this focus, very unique. If you understand Portuguese, add it to your collection for the classroom. Recommended!

 

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Kọ́lá Owólabí, Adéjùmọ Àrìnpé et al.(ed.): Jẹ́ Ká Bára Wa Sọ̀rọ̀ ní Yorùbá.Let’s communicate in Yorùbá. A multidimensional Approach to the Teaching and Learning of Yorùbá As a Foreign Language. National African Language Resource Center, Bloomington, Indiana, 2015.

I found this book on the website of the NALRC and ordered it for 40 dollars. I was happy: no shipping fee. When it arrived, I had to pay almost the same amount of cash directly at the door for the delivery. Take care with orders from outside of the US. This is one of the few resources for advanced learners. Except for vocabulary lists there are no English translations. The book has 11 chapters like “ìkíni, lítíréṣọ̀ alohùn, àwọn ọ̀rọ̀ tó jẹ mọ́ ìṣèlù, àṣà àti ìsẹ̀ṣe, ọ̀rọ̀ tó jẹ mọ́ ẹ̀sìn, ìlera” and “ìdàgbàsóké fíimù láwùjọ Yorùbá”. Every chapter is divided into four to six subsections. After perfectly written texts, the exercises start and according to the authors all four language skills are equally considered: speaking, listening, writing and reading. The book is a helpful tool for a professional teacher and not a self-study-book (which would have to cover the listening training with audio files, at least). I like the exercises about proverbs, this reminds me on the tips my Bamankan teacher gave me: learn proverbs and you get to know the culture. And nothing is more funny for the locals than a foreigner trying to master a language, suddenly reciting a proverb that fits perfectly to the situation! In one chapter Ifá is mentioned as the name of the indigenous religion, not Òrìṣà. A popular view today, rooted in the writings of Protestant authors and missionaries. Traditional religion is respected by the authors, I think, and treated like the Abrahamic cults. The chapter about songs has lyrics of a Christian pop song, but not an Orisha song. That’s a typical phenomenon in most of the Yorùbá language books. There are typos, e.g. when English and Yorùbá vocabulary lists, set in two columns, have their expressions in lines apart from each other. As the readers are advanced, they will find the right translation one or two lines below. You can see the modern Yorùbá publishing problems when sans-serif and serif fonts get mixed up in one word. Pages look a bit boring, like “designed” with Microsoft Word. This makes me wonder, why these books at the end, after so much work, never get proofread or set by a professional graphic designer. It could have been a beautiful publication, but with a cheap adhesive binding the 300 pages won’t stick together very long. The book is a heavy middle-format and would require thread stitching, for forty dollars it could be produced in a better quality. “Jẹ́ Ká Bára Wa Sọ̀rọ̀ ní Yorùbá” is a recommended collection of new material. I am looking forward to working with it!
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Ayọ Bamgboṣe: A Grammar of Yoruba. Cambridge University Press, 1966. Paperback edition 2010

This is a 175-paged reprint of a linguistic study published in 1966 by the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages at the University of Ìbàdàn. It is interesting, theoretic and uses scientific language, talks e.g. about verbal groups, genitival structures, pronoun qualifiers and appositive structures. Definitely no book for beginners, nonetheless a good source if you want to dive deeper into linguistic studies and some Yorùbá language specialities. If you read all the papers about orthography from the author (he was the one responsible for the famous language reform around 1970, I think), you will finally know, that his name should have been spelled Ayọ̀ Bám̄gbóṣé. Let’s save the Yorùbá macron! (A joke for the advanced learners, sorry òòò.) Apropos: The root of the family name is “bá-mi-gbé-oṣé”, literally “help-me-carry-the-double-axe-of-Ṣàngó (oṣé)”, in Brazil written Bamboxê, in Cuba I saw it as Obanboché. Information about family names you can find on yorubaname.com

 

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P.O.Ogunbọwale: The Essentials of the Yoruba language. David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1970
Ọladele Awobuluyi: Essentials of Yoruba Grammar. University Press Limited Ibadan 1978 and Oxford University Press 1979 (Reprint)

I mention these two books in one entry just to have them in the list. I like them, although they are not language course books but linguistic studies. I use these books a lot, because I love language theory, have to prepare my own classes and enlarge my vocabulary reading all the examples. It helps to understand the principles of a foreign language. The tables of content list chapters like "Interjections, Conjunctions, Subject/Object Function, Demonstrative Nouns, Serial Verbs” etc. Yorùbá is one of the best studied African languages and these are easily available classics. You have to look at these books as historic, today’s explanations might be different.

 

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L.O. Adéwọlé: Beginning Yorùbá. Part 1. The Centre for Advanced Studies of African Societies (CASAS), Cape Town, South Africa, 2000

This is a handbook for non-speakers of the language. It is written by a linguist from Ọbáfẹmi Awólọ́wọ̀ University in Ilé-Ifẹ̀ and addresses academic students. It has the best and most detailed chapter on pronunciation I have read so far. There is also a second part available, I have not read that one yet.

 

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Clement Odoje and Aquilina Mawadza (ed.): Yoruba Dictionary & Phrasebook. Hippocrene Books, New York, 2019

A small and handy booklet which fits into every pocket, another Yorùbá language publication by Hippocrene Books. The “dictionary” part – a word list – covers 70 pages. Yorùbá chunks and sentences translated into English are printed on 90 pages. The phrasebook is divided into chapters like “accommodations, transportation, food and drinks, health, business interactions, friends and romance”, etc., with basic sentences for daily interaction. The book has typos in both languages. While the foreword mentions the high status of Yorùbá religion in the diaspora, the authors completely forgot about Òrìṣà on the page about religion! There are translations given for: “agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim”. No olórìṣà (no “Yorùbá religion”). The “food and drinks” section has Yorùbá descriptions for: “red wine, rosé wine, dry wine, white wine, house wine, dessert wine, champagne”, all translated with “ọtí” (alcohol) word combinations. In my opinion, if you order “white wine” as “ọtí funfun” you will likely get a palmwine, at least that’s what I would expect in Nigeria. There’s more of this Western or Eastern vocabulary which sounds exotic in Yorùbáland context: “tea house” (ilé tíì), “kosher restaurant” (not very user-friendly translated as “ilé ounjẹ”, what means “restaurant” without being kosher), “asparagus” (àsìpárógọ́sì) and “celery” (sẹlẹrí). Some questions also do not fit into the environment, though you can learn interesting new vocabulary: “Where is the nearest subway station?” and “Can I have a bus map?” are amongst those. My favorites are the dietary term “genetically modified” and the chapter “At a Spa/Nail Salon” where you can ask for “aromatherapy”, the “sauna” or “acupuncture” in creative translations, which describe what should be happening, acupuncture sounds frightening in Yorùbá. Family members are a difficult language topic. The “nephew” becomes “ọmọkùnrín ẹ̀gbọ́n ẹni”, lit. “someone’s elder sibling’s son” – but what about the “younger sibling’s son”? Unlike in Europe, gender is not the guiding principle, but age. The base for the book might have been a list of words used for many small language guide books. It reflects the European view of life and sounds colonial in the African context, or upper class Lagosian. However, most of the content are useful standard phrases. It is a book for the learners who want to expand their vocabulary for daily situations. It’s cheap, handy, and very creative, but not perfect.

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Chief Isaac O. Delanọ: Conversation in Yoruba and English, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, London and Ibadan, 1963

This is a wonderful and beautifully made phrasebook for tourists to Yorùbáland with 100 chapters on “salutations, asking someone’s wishes, giving permission, disbelief, exclamations, at the doctor’s, children at play, in a village, going hunting, going to England, paying bills”, etc. Each chapter has between 10 and 30 phrases. As it was custom in these days, not all tone-marks are given, just the necessary ones and a few more. The tilde was still in use for lengthened vowels. Some phrases are not the standard-Yorùbá of today, that’s why I like this book a lot. Also, the author gives sentences in dialects (Egba), which you will hardly find in other books. Old, but worth searching for!

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E.L. Laṣebikan: Learning Yoruba. London University Press, 1958

This is a small booklet designed for beginners of Yorùbá language. It introduces to the basic grammar, has examples of conversations and every chapter gives instructions for exercises - exercises that have to be carried out with your teacher, a native speaker. It's more like a guide book for the classroom. The orthography is from 1958 and not the contemporary standard. It's not very useful, but completes your Yorùbá course book collection. Another historic course. An interesting fact is that the author was teaching Yorùbá language in the 1960s at the Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais da Universidade Federal da Bahia in Brazil. The so-called “English professors” of Brazil played a role in strengthening the Yorùbá roots in Candomblé Nagô.

 

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Antonia Yétúndé Fọlárìn Schleicher: Yoruba Newspaper Reader. Dunwoody Press, Kensington, Maryland, USA, 1998

Wow! One of the main issues of modern language education is the authenticity. Everyone wants to use authentic texts from real life in the classroom, not artificial weird dialogues written only to show a specific grammatical phenomenon. This book compiles 45 texts from Nigerian Yorùbá newspapers, which are set in correct orthography, accompanied by a vocabulary list and fully translated word by word into English! You will find all kind of stories the Nigerians love to read about, a few of them are crazy, like “What Men Love in Women’s Character” or “My Husband Scraped My Hair for a Charm” (these are two different articles). Political news, local news, traffic accidents, culture and music, it is all in there. You will find a glossary with the complete vocabulary list, which has many modern day technical and political expressions. The “Newspaper Reader” can be used for self-study at home, it is a very entertaining resource for language education. I wish there was a newer version, but not even BBC Yorùbá is publishing their texts with tonemarks today. Great book!

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Bayo Odusina, Bolaotan Agbonile: Conversational Yorùbá (Including Tonal Music Cord “Do-Re-Mi” Pronunciations). Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, USA, 2012

This is a self-published book sold via Amazon. I guess the authors are the beautiful couple on the cover. At the backside it says “Highly pictorial and fun-filled it is recommended for readers ages 3 and up”. Three years is optimistic. It is more recommended to parents, willing to teach the Yorùbá language to their children, or addresses adult learners like me. The chapters are composed of a vocabulary list printed in huge letters, four words per page is the maximum. I love the idea of vocabulary books based on images, but then you need a huge stock of high quality images and a designer. The Yorùbá writing in this book has tonemarks and underdots. It lacks a precise grammar, e.g. the demonstrative pronouns “this, that” are included in a list of personal pronouns like “we, us, they/them/their”. I appreciate the committed work of the authors, but the book should be improved.  

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Chief M.A.Fabunmi: Yoruba Idioms. Pilgrim Books, 1970/African Universities Press, Ibadan, 1984 (Reprint)

This is another great book that consists of a collection of Yorùbá idiomatic expressions, edited by Wande Abimbola. I used it to study vocabulary, it is not an educational book per se. Especially poetry like Ifá-verses are full of these expressions and the book deciphers and translates them into English, literally and interpreted. Phrases like “gbé ara dì” are explained, meaning “to prepare hard for something”. Every expression comes with a whole sentence as an example and an explanation of its meaning in Yorùbá, plus translation into English. A very rare book that can improve your poetic and advanced Yorùbá skills a lot! 

 

Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center: Yoruba Basic Language Survival Guide, California, 2008

This is one of the craziest language course that exist. Some years ago I came across 300 short MP3 files and a PDF. I was happy finding so many files for free and started listening to the files: “Stop! Dúró!” – “Stop or I will shoot! Dúró tàbi kí n pa ẹ́!” – “Follow our orders!” Ṣe nkan tí a wí!” – “Put your weapons down! Ko nkan ìjà rẹ silẹ̀!” –  “Do not move! Gan sibẹ́!” I was shocked! What would expect me in Nigeria? Later I realized, that this course was originally designed for American soldiers. It also has some more useful phrases, asking for directions, food, weather, housing etc. The files are online to find as “Yoruba Civil Affairs Phrases” or “Yoruba Language Survival Kit” and were included in various apps for smartphones, don't waste your money for these recordings, which can be downloaded for free. Military-related phrases for foreign language learners, based on modules publicly available today from the US Defense Language Institute. Mission-specific vocabulary! Not my mission. Hopefully many of these phrases you will never hear (or use!) on your trip!  
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Antônia Maria Almeida, Gilberto Simões Braúna: Gramática Yorùbá Para Quem Fala Português. Pélú àwọn isuré lati òrìṣà Ṣàngó. Ẹgbẹ́ Ipamọ́ Èdè Yorùbá Ni Basìí (Sociedade de Preservação de Língua Yorùbá no Brasil), Salvador, 2001

This is a nice example of a course book dedicated to the Brazilian community of olorixá, the ones interested in getting to know the principles of their ancestor’s language. It is written in Portuguese and has several chapters on grammar, like “Tonalização, Pronomes, Advérbios, Verbos, etc.” and a list of 110 phrases for everyday use, some of them fit to the Brazilian environment, like “Ṣé o fẹ́ràn omi-dúdu?”, translated with “Do you like coffee?”, literally “black water” (Será que você gosta de café?) or “Mo bẹ̀ ìbùkún fún ìyáloriṣa mi”, translated as “I begged for a blessing for my Iyalorisha” (Eu pedi a benção para minha Ìyáloriṣa). I also like the “Alufa kan lù ni ilẹ̀kún mi” and imagine an upset Brazilian olorixá using this phrase for a Catholic priest or Evangelical pastor (“A priest was knocking on my door”, priest was translated as "um padre", while “alufa” is originally Arabic). Some tone marks are missing. It is a nice, small 120-pages book for beginners to get an idea of the language. It shows the Orisha community’s interest in learning and understanding Yorùbá and is one of the few Portuguese-Yorùbá grammar books. I really enjoyed reading it.

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Eurotalk: Talk Now! Yoruba / Instant Yoruba /Ultimate Yoruba. CD-ROM, USB, App

I already reviewed the audio course released by Eurotalk in this list (see above). These courses here are packages which can be downloaded from their website to your PC or Mac, where they will be installed as an interactive program. Various courses exist, like “Talk Business Yoruba” or “Talk the Talk Yoruba”. I have not tested them, because they are rather expensive and the phrases mentioned in the previews do not really interest me. Examples like “My computer crashed and I have lost all my files”, a so-called business phrase, or “I play in the volleyball team” are not the sort of things I talk about when I am in Yorùbáland. Eurotalk offers these courses in over 75 languages, and all of them come with the same sentences. It is great that the company covers many “exotic” languages - but without adopting them to the local environment some phrases do not make sense. Who needs the Yorùbá word for “grapes”, which is translated as an English loanword (grepu), in West Africa? I am sure there are useful phrases as well and they offer a huge variety of courses, e.g. “Talk The Talk Yoruba” is “designed with teenager’s social lives in mind”. I wonder if it is a young Nigerian’s social life. Who wants to study Yorùbá language with a computer program in front of a screen, check their Website.

orisha image

Abraham Ajibade Adeleke: Intermediate Yoruba. Language, Culture, Literature and Religious Beliefs Part II. Trafford Publishing, 2011

This book with its 290 pages is printed on demand and can be downloaded as an e-book. It is part of a trilogy: Introduction, Intermediate and Advanced Level Yorùbá, I have read just the Intermediate one. I ordered it when I was looking for some new material, after having worked over all the other books in the list above. It has some smaller texts on Yorùbá costums in English language and deals with different topics, some of them I was already familiar with from Nigerian Yorùbá educational school books. This book has a major issue though: it has absolutely no diacritic marks for the three tone-levels nor the dotted letters “ẹ”, “ọ” and “ṣ”. I am wondering why the author, a coordinator of African Studies at Albany State University, is publishing a book lacking these important features. This is a no-go for a Yorùbá study book, so I cannot recommend it. Maybe a Yorùbá speaker does not need diacritic marks or dotted letters, but for a Yorùbá student they are necessary.

 

yoruba course

Fernandes Portugal: Guía Práctica de la Lengua Yorubá en cuatro Idiomas (Español, Inglés, Portugués y Yorubá), Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, 1998

This book was published in 1998 in Havana (and in a second edition in Brazil in 2013 entitled Guia Prático da Língua Yorùbá). It is a course with translations into English, Portuguese and Spanish - too many idioms for one “practical guide”! 140 pages in four languages could be reduced to 70 pages in two languages. In English the author describes himself as a teacher of “Afro-negro Theology”. After starting with an “Agò mo júbá” prayer he dedicates the book “to all who wish to discover your religious origins in the land of the Òrisà”, two lines below he says “this book does not have a religious focus”. The myth that the Yorùbá people were “banished from Mecca and obligated to the west nigerian region, where they ever stay” is the introduction. Even on the first page simple greetings have spelling mistakes, dotted letters and tonemarks are missing on “Ẹ Se O!” or “Ṣe Alaafia Ni?” The second Brazilian edition was lectured and corrected. The book is divided into 26 sections, which cover usual grammatical topics. Single phrases are given, no dialogues, no exercises. There are useful ones, others are like: “Kókòrò ni ọkan/Insects have a heart/Inseto tem coração/Los insectos tienen corazón”. Hm? Is this some kind of proverb? After the sentence “I love you” in Yorùbá comes “Àyà rẹ tobi.” Oh, these Latinos! “Yo puedo golpearte” is translated as “I can beat on you” - “Èmí le lù ọ́”. The highlight is “Èmí fẹ́ràn àwọn ọlọpa USA”, what means “I like USA police!” Does this have a political meaning in a book published in Havana? We’ll never know. When I read “I have a monkey”, “Èmi ní ọbọ”, I was thinking of my Yorùbá teacher and how she would have fun with this phrase. Few people will ever be in the position to state truthfully that they own a monkey, very likely people will understand another thing as a mispronounced “ọbọ” (“ọ̀bọ”): vagina. The new Brazilian edition was improved. It’s a rare book genre, the multiple-languages-phrasebook. I don’t like it. 

Language Chimp: Learn Yoruba. Conversational Course Suitable For Beginners. MP3 Audio Included

Do not buy this course! I found it on Ebay, was curious about it and ordered. Just to find out that this is the course from the US Foreign Service Institute from 1967 which is available for free online (see above). Someone copies the files on a CD, wraps it up in a designed sleeve and sells it to people like me, without having any work with it. Various versions in different designs exist, many on Amazon. Do not buy these courses!

 

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Hans Wolff (with the assistance of J. Ọmọtọṣọ Arẹmu): Beginning Yoruba / Second-Year Yoruba / Second-Year Yoruba Informant’s Manual. African Studies Center, Michigan State University 1964

A rare script that gives us an idea about the standard Yorùbá language education on American universities in the 1960s. Grammar was explained in linguistic terms, followed by translated sentences. No dialogues, no texts about different topics, no real-life situations, no culture, no context – just lists of single sentences. An emphasis was put on the correct tones, I like that. The orthography was not the standard one of today. Example: “The pluralization function of /àwõ/ normally extends both to the noun and to its modifiers. Most adjectivals do not have specific plural forms. However, there are a few forms which specifically indicate plural, as you will notice.” A long list of examples shows this principle applied to sentences like “Mo rí ajáà rẹ – I saw your dog”, “Mo rí awõ ajáà rẹ – I saw your dogs”. The second book is for the intermediate level and has an exact guide how to structure the lessons together with a native speaker, the “informant”. The third book has nothing more than examples for listening comprehensions: single sentences, that should have been read aloud by the informant to test the students’ abilities. I like these books, maybe because I had Latin at school for six years and I am used to this type of language education. They help you to understand the theory and grammar, but they definitely do not get you speaking!

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J.A. de Gaye, W.S. Beecroft: Yoruba Grammar. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London, Lagos, CMS Bookshop, Third impression, 1951 

A classical book, originally published in 1914. At that time “learning a language” meant “translating one language into another”. All presented categories for Yorùbá grammar were still those of European languages – and Latin (there’s a future perfect, a subjunctive, and many tables of conjugations). Historically interesting. It is easy to get cheap copies on the second-hand book market. Seems like African language politics has been more progressive in the past, I quote the preface: “The fact that the University of Glasgow has lately accepted Yoruba as an alternative for French for the Matriculation Examination has induced the author to publish the present volume, which is also intended to meet the requirements of the Native Language Examination for Public Officers of Southern Nigeria. The Rules have been carefully laid down, numerous exercises have been introduced, and special attention has been paid to Word Building.” This one’s for the aficionados of Yorùba books and their history! The printers could handle the Yorùbá letters much better back in the days than the modern-day publishers do (without Unicode troubles...).

orisha image

Michael Ashiwaju: Lehrbuch der Yoruba-Sprache. Verlag Enzyklopädie Leipzig, 1967

Just a very short comment on this book, it is written in German and Yorùbá. I like it a lot, because German is my mother tongue and it was the first time I could read direct translations of grammatical Yorùbá issues and phrases into German, and not into English. It is a good and well-structured book. As the author mentions it is based mostly on educational books that were available in Nigeria at that time, like the “Aláwìíyé” series or other books on Yorùbá culture, see below. A good summary in German.

 

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Muniru Akanbi Akinwunmi: Yoruba. African Language Simplified. Akinwunmi Enterprises Merchandising Agency, Brooklyn, New York, 1960

I wanted to show this booklet as an example for the history of Yorùbá language literacy, teaching and education. The author accomplished technical studies in Europe and became president of the African Aid Group Community Services in New York. He dedicated his work to the “propagations of goodwill between Americans and Africans, culturally and economically”. He was teaching in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The grammar in this book, with small exercises and a vocabulary section, may be based on linguistic publications from that time, the terminology is scientific. The only color used inside the book is green, hand-printed on one page in silkscreen technique – and used only for the National flag of Nigeria. This is the Yorùbá spirit! A book for collectors, not for language students.

yoruba educational books

Various Educational Books published in Nigeria

Nigerian school books written in Yorùbá provide an excellent resource for language students and provide material for many classes on different levels. Several beautiful series exist with colored or black and white ink drawings. Especially the original editions have great artwork, the newer re-issues often are printed in low-quality and lack the beautiful drawings. Look out for the series: “Taiwo ati Kehinde”, “Karọ o Jire”, “Aláwìíyé” or “Ìwé Kíkà Àsìkò”. They are hard to get outside of Nigeria. A good source is the library of a university nearby, maybe there is an African Studies faculty in your city.
 

yoruba books

Various books about Yorùbá culture in Yorùbá language

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, many books were published in Yorùbá language, especially non-fiction books about Yorùbá culture and National traditions. I found incredible publications in libraries, it is worth browsing through the shelves. Look out for the detailed “Ìgbàgbọ́ ati Ẹ̀sìn Yorùbá” in perfect orthography by Adéoyè, “Awọn àṣà ati òrìṣà ilẹ Yoruba”, which gives descriptions of Orisha including prayers, or “Àṣà ìbílẹ̀ Yoruba” with chapters on burial rites, chieftaincy installations, marriage ceremonies or the hunters, and “Àwọn Irúnmalẹ̀ Ilẹ̀ Yorùbá” by P.O. Ògúnbọ̀wálé about Orisha, or folk tales in “Oju Oṣupa” by Yemitan and Ogundele. Often the old books have tonemarks only when necessary (if some words have “multiple meanings”). All of them were written for native Yorùbá-speakers, not for foreign language students. Dialect expressions are often to find, my teacher always complained about it. She studied the modern “Lagosian Yorùbá”, as she called it. The books are entertaining to read for olorisha and cultural travelers, but don’t expect finding out the truth about the deities there. They are good the get to know the old costums.
 

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Ọládélé Awóbùlúyì àti Ọlásopé O. Oyèláràn: Ìléwọ́ Ìkọ̀wé Yorùbá Òde-òní. Kwara State University Press, Ilorin, Kwara State, 2017

This booklet is based on the “Modern Yorùbá Writing Manual” which was published by the Yorùbá Cross-Border Language Commission. The authors of “Ìléwọ́ Ìkọ̀wé Yorùbá Òde-òní” translated the “Modern Yorùbá Writing Manual” completely into Yorùbá. The book has all diacritics, what might have been difficult to handle in the self-publishing sector. It is an important book for students who are publishing in Yorùbá and want to know the official contemporary guidelines, I quote in English: “write all personal names exactly as their bearers like or want them to be written”, “never ever conjoin sentences with àti” or “write ‘-ọn’ only after b,p,f, gb, w and ‘-an’ after consonants other than m, b, p, f, gb and w”. It has examples of all kind of grammatical topics. While the Language Commission used a tilde for a mid-tone “ñ”, a diacritical sign that does not exist in Yorùbá, the authors here used a macron, the correct sign, as “n̄”. The authors also eliminated the reverence to Jesus at the end, thank God for that. The only thing I want to criticize is typography: fake italics. There are good typefaces, which have an extra set of letters for italics. And there are bad typefaces, which lack italics, but the computer program manages to distort all letters to mimic italics. Fake italics are ugly, especially when combined with rather short distorted accent grave and acute. I hope someone will design a Yorùbá font one day or revitalize the PanNigerian developed by linguist Victor Manfredi and typographer Hermann Zapf in the 1980s. Except for typographical points, this is an interesting book to study orthography in the target language! Kwara State University publishes books via a print-on-demand platform, it is shipped within three days, that’s progressive and makes it easy getting Nigerian publications abroad.

awolowo university ile ife yoruba books

If you travel to Nigeria, the best shop for Yorùbá language books I visited is the bookshop at the Ọbáfẹmi Awólọ́wọ̀ University in Ilé-Ifẹ̀, see the image above. Schoolbooks, Ifá-books and classic Yorùbá novels are available there, like “Àdììtú Olódùmarè” by D.O. Fágúnwà, which has also been translated into English. For the novels you will need the support of a Yorùbá teacher, many poetic expressions you won’t find in a dictionary. Reading novels leads you directly to the advanced level, but books don’t get you talking either. This is one of the main problems I am having with all the literature, organizing my own one-to-one classes with a native speaker: my Yorùbá reading skills are really good, because I am always working with texts. But I still have problems to talk the tonal language, a few hours a week just isn’t enough practice. Tell me about your experiences! I would love to hear from the readers of this blog. Have fun studying Yorùbá!