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Adebayo Adegbembo: 5 Times the Ability to Speak a Local Nigerian Language Comes in Handy



dreamstime_m_7050210One of the trio spoke, “Femo baba, how you wan take tell that Yoruba babe, Shaki, say you like am?” “Chai! I tire o!” said Femi shaking his head. Then a third round-faced guy placed his arm across Femi’s shoulders and said in reassuring tone, “Calm down Femo, e no hard na. Just say, mo n’ife re Shaki.” They all roared with laughter while Femi added, “who Yoruba don epp?” Even I couldn’t help giggling at the sound of that. In English, “mo n’ife re” translates to, “I have feelings or affection towards you.”

Prior to that moment, I’d sat quietly behind them in the danfo bus enjoying the conversation. Their uniforms gave them away as secondary school students while dotting facial pimples put them in their teens. They were still enjoying their Yoruba-bashing comedy when my mind drifted off to thoughts of their apparent ignorance. I closed my eyes recalling my secondary school years. Life as a teenager was primarily about getting good grades and impressing girls. I couldn’t recall where Yoruba fit into those settings. Hence, devoid of any sentiment, I asked myself, “was there really anything abnormal about what I’d just witnessed?”

University wasn’t any different. In one memorable episode, Musa, one of my roommates often spoken highly of his new catch, Gbemi. She was the best student in her faculty, bound for a first class honours degree, smart,… all according to Musa who fed us regularly with stories of her academic feats. Understandably, we longed to meet her. The day finally came during an outing after exams. When I asked Gbemi what course she was studying and she mentioned Yoruba, we laughed to the point of tears. Not done, I asked what her job prospects were after graduation. Before she could answer, Oche an Engineering student joked that she could act as an interpreter between a Babalawo and people seeking favour. More laughter followed. Presumably used to such, Gbemi joined in the laughter, as Musa managed a wry smile.

Fast-forward to today, my adolescent ignorance has seen the light regarding the subject of Yoruba and other native languages. Also, given the running debate over the relevance of native languages, I find it useful to pose the question, “who Yoruba don epp?” In other words, of what benefit is Yoruba or even Igbo, Igala or some other native Nigerian language to anyone? With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll answer that within the context of my question to Gbemi years ago.

Having a good understanding of spoken and written Yoruba makes you a great candidate for the following jobs:

These services are required by organizations seeking to reach people whose language of communication is primarily Yoruba. Think of promotional materials such as jingles, posters done in Yoruba and you’ll get a better sense of where to narrow your search. As companies seek to expand their reach across the globe, so will opportunities for native language speakers and writers. Interestingly, during a meeting with Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg last week, he shared his plans to have more native languages integrated on the number one social network. In case you didn’t know, Hausa, Kiswahili and Ikinyarwanda are a few African languages already present on Facebook. You can also explore Facebook groups such as African Languages where opportunities are regularly shared for qualified native speakers and writers.

There are openings for language teachers in schools across the country at the primary and secondary levels. This is not limited to full-time jobs as I’ve seen native language speakers enjoy the freedom of catering to different students in homes and schools on part-time basis. 3 months ago, I deployed a custom desktop version of my Yoruba101 app for a private tutor who specializes in private Yoruba language classes for expatriate kids. Her students are mainly spread across international schools in Lagos where she is handsomely paid for her services. My friend Kolade Ogunbayode also hosts Yoruba classes for students across the UK on a weekly basis. In the 2 years I’ve known him, there’s been no end to the number of students seeking to enroll for his classes.

Radio/TV Presenter
Spend some time on Africa Magic Yoruba or Bond FM to get a sense of opportunities for on-air personalities with spoken Yoruba skills.

Nigeria’s Nollywood industry remains one of the largest in the world employing a cross-section of talents. A subset of that industry, Yoruba movies is notable for its size and influence. Funke Akindele, Kunle Afolayan, Tunde Kelani among other top names command respect in the industry for their roles.

Jobs abroad
The foregoing jobs such as teaching are not limited to Nigeria alone. Thus, Yoruba can also come in handy as an advantage in job hunting abroad. Sometime last year, this job advert by the British Police Force made headlines as it sought candidates who spoke Yoruba among other languages.

The list of opportunities go on and apply to other native language speakers and writers. Until my next post, I would love to read about who Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Efik, Bini or [insert native language] don epp?

Photo Credit: Dennis Owusu-ansah |

Adebayo Adegbembo is the founder of Genii Games Limited; creators of interactive mobile apps, animated videos and workshops to make African Cultures fun for kids. A trained Engineering Surveyor from the University of Lagos, Bayo went the route of entrepreneurship in fulfillment of his passion for writing, technology, arts and culture. Follow him on Twitter @technobayo


  1. Tosin

    September 7, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Historian. Traditional leader. Traditional healer. Doctor. Lover. Musician. Politician. ati bee bee lo.

    • Nammy

      September 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

      Tosin, your comment cracked me up.
      The writer made valid points. As for me, I just want to learn how to speak my language for communication purposes, its really embarrassing when someone hears my name and excitedly speaks language to me and I respond with a smile that says I do not understand. Wish there was a tutor for my language

    • Adebayo Adegbembo

      September 7, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      That’s nice. What language is that?

    • Adebayo Adegbembo

      September 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Lol. I’ll go with Historian, Doctor and Musician. Those will inspire people to study Nigerian languages.


    September 7, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Nice article. I wouldn’t mind an article that focuses on the role parents play in helping kids learn their language or when we have inter-tribal marriages, what language the kids should speak? For me, i tried to learn my language, but didn’t have people to speak too. I also tried learning Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo as i have spent some time in places where these languages are spoken. But i just generally lost interest! I hope our languages doesn’t die oh!

    • Adebayo Adegbembo

      September 7, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      That’s a good point for an article. Being in an environment where the language is dominant helps with learning.

  3. DAME

    September 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Languages help oo. When i was still a marketeer for .a bank in Abuja, although i am not Yoruba but i speak pretty well because i schooled in Osun state and lived in Lagos, it went a long way…form the security guards to directors in different ministries who are just happy to chat with their fellow kinsman and help with accounts you ordinarily would not get.
    Next to learn is Hausa.

    • Adebayo Adegbembo

      September 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Lol. So, Yoruba don epp you 🙂

  4. Charles

    September 7, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Tell that to igbos who shy away from their language
    I am a non nigerian and I love my igbos but highly disgusted that 99% of my igbo friends dont speak their language and their excuse is oh because i grew up in Lagos, what a foolish excuse. Are you the only tribe that grew up in Lagos

    its is shameful and you guys need to change it. This is very URGENT as you all know what UNESCO said about your language being Extinct/

    No Igbo person should ever be proud they dont speak their language. Its shameful to the highest order.

    • Uh ok....

      September 8, 2016 at 2:39 am

      The vast majority of Igbos were brought up and raised in the East/Outside Lagos. VAST majority. As in close to 20 million of us. Not sure about the crowd of Igbos you hang with but those I know can speak Igbo fluently. 20 million fluent speakers do not point to an endangered language as classified by UNESCO. Tell that to the hundreds of minority languages in Nigeria actually going extinct each day.

    • Adebayo Adegbembo

      September 8, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Hi Charles, thanks for your response. Most native Nigerian languages face the same issue from my interactions over the last 3 years. That said, I think the best way to encourage people to learn their native languages is to further highlight the benefits. I find that the argument has to go beyond simply learning to preserve the language because people want to be able to relate its relevance to something tangible like job prospects.

  5. Charles

    September 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    ps: I am learning igbo – yes i am not even nigerian. Next i will learn Yoruba then next I will learn Swahili

    If your parent made the MISTAKE and refuse to teach you. Its not too late, learn now and break the cycle with your kids cos its atrociously horrible any African who does not speak their language. I just look at you with a side eye like really?

    Learn from the chinese and Indians. You will never see this in East Africa or West Africa – NEVER. Its always West Africans especially nigerians born abroad or grew up in Lagos who will say they dont speak their language cos they were born abroad or raised in the city. Approach any Indian or Oriental person here in London or in USA who were born and raised here and asked them if they speak their language.?? 99.9% do .

    You have no excuse and you should be very ashamed of yourself. VERY VERY ASHAMED of yourself.

    I dont respect parents who speak the language and dont teach their kids and give excuse Oh when i try they dont speak back. Then you are FAILED parent. Yes BIG FAT FAILURE

  6. Lmui

    September 8, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Its not fair to a kid who spent all his life in Nigeria to only speak English

    • Adebayo Adegbembo

      September 9, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      Lol. What can I say.

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