“There are many influential Nigerians all around the world. If we start promoting our language and culture in the media and internationally people will have no choice but to give it the respect it is due.” – Gbemisola Isimi
Earlier in the year, Adebunmi Adeniran, a UK based Nigerian developed a keyboard to support and enable writing in at least 12 Nigerian languages. The idea for the multilingual keyboard, Nailangs, was borne out of her love for languages and her desire to prevent local Nigerian dialects from going extinct. According to Adeniran, the realization that Nigerian dialects were being spoken as secondary languages in the country, and that fewer children are being taught and are able to speak their local languages was disheartening.
Today, Gbemisola Isimi, a young Nigerian woman also based in the United Kingdom has turned to social media – Youtube – to help keep her beloved Yoruba language alive. Isimi started CultureTreeTV Yoruba, a YouTube channel that teaches children Yoruba with cartoons, stories, and popular nursery rhymes. Launched in April, the channel has 15 videos so far with a good number of viewers.
Isimi says she conceived the idea for CultureTreeTV when she could not find nursery rhymes or stories in Yoruba online to help her teach her children the language. “… I started translating the English nursery rhymes my daughter liked into Yoruba and teaching them to her. This was basically what brought on the idea of CultureTreeTV Yoruba,” she says on the channel.
Once she started translating popular nursery rhymes to Yoruba, the young woman called on an animator to create stunning characters and videos to go with the songs. According to Quartz, Isimi focused on a video channel because her daughter enjoyed watching videos and nursery rhymes online, and also because music proved an effective teaching and learning tool.
“From experience, I’ve found that music and stories are a great way to teach young children basic vocabulary in any given language. The younger the learner, the better they are at mimicking new sounds and adopting pronunciation.”
Isimi’s three-year-old daughter, Kayinoluwa, is bilingual as she communicates with her in both Yoruba and English, and that’s her dream for every Yoruba child in diaspora. “If I had my way, every Nigerian Yoruba child in London would know how to speak their language. That’s my mission. We need to keep our heritage alive. We need to keep our culture alive. We need to keep our language alive,” she enthused.
Although CultureTreeTV only teaches Yoruba for now, Isimi hopes to include other Nigerian and African languages over time to help Africans in diaspora pass their languages to their children in a fun and educative way. “Lots of people want to pass the language to their children but don’t have the ways or material to do so,” she said.