African Star Apple is Agbalumo
Ground Hornbill is Akalamagbo
Eagle is Idi
Pouched Rat is Okete
African Teak Tree is Iroko
Grasshopper is Tata
Bumblebee is Alabonbon
Mosquito Larva is Tanwiji
Parrot is Aiyekooto
Tangerine is Ahoboro
Guinea Pig is Emo
Lawyer is Amofin
Television is Amohunmaworan
Gecko is Omonile
Dwarf is Arara
Sand is Iyepe
Chair is Aga
Gourd is Akeregbe
Trumpet is Kaakaki
Milk is Wara
Baldhead is Apari
Cassava is Paki
Roof is Orule
Lightning is Monamona
Squirrel is Okere
Lantern is Atupa
Mountain is Oke
Sky is Ofurufu
Gorilla is Inak
This is the popular saying in some parts of Africa, a response to the claim that the missionaries who came to Africa were on a humanitarian “civilizing” mission, bringing salvation to the “primitive” tribes and “lost souls”. We however know from all the available evidence on the activities of the “missionaries” that they were just the fore-runners who paved the way for the colonial conquest and subsequent rape of the Africa, nation states which accepted the culture of the missionaries, called Christianity, without a fight were left with little disruption of their traditional and cultural values. This was the beginning of the system called Indirect Rule introduced first by the British under its governor Lord Lugard in Northern Nigeria. In return for the agreement to allow the British colonialists to carry on their imperialist activities and maintain “law and order” the Northern Nigerian Hausa and Fulani chiefs were allowed to keep their traditional institutions, their culture and even their Islamic religion. The situation was however different in other parts of Africa where the people resisted the introduction of colonial rule.
The Asantes in Ghana fought the British at every turn and even defeated the British in a brutal war in 1826 in which the British Commander Charles McCarthy was killed. In these areas the colonialists used the missionaries on strong “civilizing” missions. The Presbyterian Missionaries were the worst offenders. In the areas that they settled they sought to divide the population by creating separate living communities called “Christian Quarters”, for those who converted to Christianity. These were the “civilized, clean souls” who were not expected to mix with the “uncivilized heathen ones”. This practice divided family units and the divisions have endured till now to the extent that children were separated from their parents, wives from husbands and so on because parts of certain family units would not convert to Christianity.
There is abundant evidence to show that the introduction and imposition of this European colonial culture was a direct extension of European capitalist expansion. The Christian missionary activities was just a guise for European commercial activities. They were the most ambitious ideological agents of the British Empire, bearing with them the fanatical zeal to reconstruct the native world in the name of God and Great Britain. The British “Christian” missionary, David Livingstone who is portrayed as the most dedicated missionary with a passionate vision for the “Dark Continent” (Africa) summed up their intentions in a speech at Oxford University in 1864. He argued that:
“Sending the Gospel to the heathens of Africa must include more than implied in the usual practice of a missionary, namely, a man going about with a Bible under his arms. The promotion of commerce ought to be specially attended to as this, more than anything else, makes the heathen tribes depend on commercial intercourse among civilized nations.
I go back to Africa to, open a new path to commerce. Do you carry on the work I have started?” Passionate vision indeed!! Even in modern times, the policies and practices of financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the foreign and economic policies of most Western nations towards Africa have not diverted from the vision of David Livingstone.
One of the painful destructive legacies unleashed by the Christian missionary adventurers was the perversion of the natural names of Africans. Every African name has a meaning and a significance. For example children born in Ghana carry names of the day on which they were born. We do not carry family names. The surnames reflect the
significance of the circumstances in which the child is born. Parents name children after people who have done significant things in their lives. To keep the good name of such persons parents honor them by
naming a child after that person. For example I was born on a Friday. My first name is therefore Kofi. I was named after my grandfather whom my father really admired. Baffour in some areas my name means
an adventurer, a fighter. My sister is called Afua (female Friday born). Her surname is Maanu which means she is the third female born in the family. Therefore anybody from Ghana looking at my sister’s
name: Afua Maanu knows exactly what it means. I have a Nigerian friend whose parents were so happy that they had a son that they named him Olu Gbenga, meaning “God has elevated me”. And there is my Ugandan friend from East Africa who is named Muhumuza (one who brought relief). His sister is called Nankunda Katangaza: (the little one who amazes) However our Christian invaders decided that those names were heathen, primitive, uncivilized. At baptism, (another cultural imposition) the civilized parents are expected to give Christian names to their children. I was therefore called Michael instead of Kofi. This signified that I had been transformed from paganism to a new civilized life. I do not even know what Michael means. My Nigerian friend was christened Thomas instead of Olu Gbenga and my Uganda friend is Gabriel instead of the beautiful Muhumuza.
Many Africans who have arrived in Canada have had to fight uphill battles with immigration department on their names. They do not understand why family members do not bear the same names. I have two brothers but they do not carry my father’s name because we have nothing designated as family name. There is now a cultural revolution going on in most parts of Africa. Many people are shedding their Christian names for the natural meaningful names given to them at birth. For me I would still carry my Christian name, Michael. At least it will continuously remind me that once upon
a time I came into contact with a bunch of strange people who sought to civilize me by just changing my Name!
Good morning! Ek’aro
Good afternoon! Ek’asan
Good evening! Ek’ale
Welcome! (to greet someone) Ek’abo
Hello my friend! Bawoni Oremi
How are you? (friendly) Bawo lowa
How are you? (polite) Bawo lara
I’m fine, thank you! Mowa dada, Ese
And you? (friendly) Iwo na nko
And you? (polite) Iwo nko
Not so good Kofibe da
Long time no see Ope ti mo ti rie
I missed you Mos’aro e
What’s new? Kini tuntun
Nothing new Kosi tuntun
Thank you (very much)! Ese gan
You’re welcome! (for “thank you”) Ko t’ope
My pleasure Inu midun
Come in! (or: enter!) Wole wa
Make yourself at home! Ef’okan bale,Ile lewa
Have a nice day! Od’igba
Good night! Od’aro
Good night and sweet dreams! od’aro kosi la ala to da
See you later! mari e ni’gba mi
See you soon! mari e laipe
See you tomorrow! mari e lola
Good bye! Od’abo
Have a good trip! Irin ajo ada o
I have to go Moni lati malo
I will be right back! Mon padabo
(Holidays and Wishes)
Good luck! Pade orire
Happy birthday! Eku ojo ibi
Happy new year! Eku odun tuntun
Merry Christmas! Eku odun keresimesi
Ei del kabir Eku odun Ileya
Independence day Eku odun ojo ominira
Congratulations! Eku ori ire
Enjoy! (or: bon appetit) Igba dun
Bless you (when sneezing) Epele
Best wishes! Nko rere fun e
Cheers! (or: to your health) Eku araya
Accept my best wishes Gba nkan rere timo fefun e
(How to Introduce Yourself)
What’s your name? Kini oruko e?
My name is (John Doe) Oruko mi ni (john Doe)
Nice to meet you! Inumidun lati ri e
Where are you from? Ilu wo loti wa?
I’m from (the U.S/ Nigeria) Mowa lati ilu (America/nigeria)
I’m (American/ Nigerian) Omo (America/Nigeria) nimi
Where do you live? Ibo l’ongbe?
I live in (the U.S/ Nigeria) Mongbe ni(America/ nigeria)
Do you like it here? S’o feran ibi?
Nigeria is a beautiful country Orile ede to rewa ni nigeria
What do you do for a living? Ise wo lonse?
I’m a (teacher/ student/ engineer) (Oluko/akeko/ onimo ero) ni mi
Do you speak (English/ Yoruba)? S’ole so ede(geesi/ yoruba)?
Just a little Mole so die
I like Yoruba Moferan yoruba
I’m trying to learn Yoruba Mongbiyanju lati ko ede yoruba
It’s a hard language Ede t’ole ni
It’s an easy language Ede ti kole ni
Oh! That’s good! hehen, Iyen da
Can I practice with you? se mole ko pelu e?
I will try my best to learn Mase iwon ti mole se lati ko
How old are you? Omo odun melo ni e?
I’m (twenty one, thirty two) years old Omo (ogun odun lekan,ogun odun lemeji) ni mi
It was nice talking to you! Mogbadun bi mose nba e soro
It was nice meeting you! mogbadun bi mose pade e
Mr…/ Mrs. …/ Miss… Ogbeni…/ Iya afin…/ Omidan….
This is my wife Iyawo mi niyi
This is my husband Oko mi niyi
Say hi to Thomas for me Bami ki Thomas
(Romance and Love Phrases)
Are you free tomorrow evening? S’o raye lati ola lo
I would like to invite you to dinner mo fe kajo jade fun ounje ale
You look beautiful! (to a woman) O rewa gan lobinrin
You have a beautiful name Oruko re rewa
Can you tell me more about you? Se ole so si fun mi nipa re?
Are you married? Se oti se igbeyawo?
I’m single Mosi da wa
I’m married Moti se igbeyawo
Can I have your phone number? Se mole gba nomba ero ibani soro re?
Can I have your email? Se mole gba iwe ateranse re?
Do you have any pictures of you? Se oni awon aworan re?
Do you have children? Se oni awon omo?
Would you like to go for a walk? Se ole jeka nase jade
I like you Moferan e
I love you Mon’ife e!
You’re very special! Eeyan pataki ni e!
You’re very kind! Odaa gan!
I’m very happy Inumi dun gan
Would you marry me? Se wa femi?
I’m just kidding Mon sere ni o
I’m serious Mi o selere rara
My heart speaks the language of love Okan mi nso ede ife
(Solving a Misunderstanding)
Sorry! (or: I beg your pardon!) Ema binu
Sorry (for a mistake) Epele
No problem! Kosi’yonu
Can you repeat please? Se ole tunso jo?
Can you speak slowly? Se ole soro didie?
Can you write it down? Se ole koosile?
Did you understand what I said? Se nko ti mo so ye e?
I don’t understand! Ko ye mi!
I don’t know! Mi o mo!
What’s that called in Yoruba? Kini won npe ni ede yoruba?
What does that word mean in English? Kini itumo oro yen ni ede geesi?
How do you say “thanks” in Yoruba? Bawo lese nso pe”Ese gan” ni ede yoruba?
What is this? Ki leleyi?
My Yoruba is bad Ede yoruba mi da
Don’t worry! Mase iyonu!
I agree with you Mo faramo nko to so
Is that right? Se iyen da?
Is that wrong? Se iyen o da?
What should I say? Kini kinso?
I just need to practice moni lati ko gan
Your Yoruba is good Ede yoruba re da
I have an accent Ede mi fihan pe mi owa lati ilu yi
You don’t have an accent Ede re dabi tiwa
(Asking for Directions)
Excuse me! (before asking someone) Ejo
I’m lost Mi o mona
Can you help me? S’ele ran mi lowo?
Can I help you? Se mole ran e lowo?
I’m not from here Mio kinse ara ile yi
How can I get to (this place, this city)? Bawo ni mosele de adugbo yi?
Go straight Malo lookan
Turn left Ya si apa osi
Turn right ya si apa otun
Can you show me? S’ole fihan mi?
I can show you! Mole fihan e
Come with me! Telemi kalo!
How long does it take to get there? Ato igbawo k’atodebe?
Downtown (city center) Aarin ilu
Historic center (old city) Ilu atijo
It’s near here Itosi ibi
It’s far from here Ojina s’ibi
Is it within walking distance? Se molerin debe
I’m looking for Mr. Smith Mon bere Ogbeni smith
One moment please! Jo funmi ni iseju kan!
Hold on please! (when on the phone) Ejo monbo
He is not here Ibi kis’ebi ( kosi nibi)
Airport Papako Ofurufu
Bus station Ibudoko
Train station Ibudoko oko ojurin
(Emergency Survival Phrases)
Help! Egbawa o!
Watch out! (or: be alert!) Egbara di
Call the police! Epe olopa!
Call a doctor! Epe dokita!
Call the ambulance! Epe oko tongbeyan lo si ile iwosan
Are you okay? S’owa daada!
I feel sick Ara mi oya
I need a doctor Moferi dokita
Food poisoning Majele ounje
Where is the closest pharmacy? Ibo ni ile oloogun oyinbo to sunmon ju?
It hurts here Eeyan nsese nibi?
It’s urgent! Ogba kiakia!
Calm down! Fara bale!
You will be okay! Ara re aya!
Can you help me? Se ole ranmi lowo?
Can I help you? Se mole ran e lowo?
(Hotel Restaurant Travel Phrases)
I have a reservation (for a room) Motigba yara kan sile
Do you have rooms available? Se awon yara wanle?
With shower / With bathroom To ni baluwe
I would like a non-smoking room Mofe yara ti won ti kin mu siga
What is the charge per night? Elo ni owo re fun ale kan?
I’m here on business /on vacation Mo wasibi fun ise/ fun isinmi
Do you accept credit cards? S’e n gba owo ni ona kaadi
I’d like to rent a car Mafe lati ya oko ayokele
How much will it cost? Elo lo ma na mi?
A table for (one / two) please! Ejo tabili fun eyan (kan/meji)!
Is this seat taken? Se wan ti gba aye yi ni?
I’m vegetarian Ounje elewe lemi nje
I don’t eat pork Mio kin je elede
I don’t drink alcohol Mio kin mu oti
What’s the name of this dish? Ki’loruko ounje yi?
Waiter / waitress! Adani loun!
Can we have the check please? S’ele fun mi ni iwe sowedowo na?
It is very delicious! Odun gan!
I don’t like it Mi o feran e
Shopping Expressions Ise nibi nkan rira
How much is this? Elo leleyi?
I’m just looking Mo kan nwo ni
I don’t have change Mio ni sanji
This is too expensive Eyi ti won ju
What time is it? Ago melo lolu?
It’s 3 o’clock Ago meta lolu
Give me this! Fun mi leleyi!
Are you sure? S’o da e loju?
Take this! (when giving something) Gba eleyi!
It’s freezing (weather) Otutu gan nibi gan
It’s cold (weather) Otutu nibi
It’s hot (weather) Ogbona nibi
Do you like it? S’o feran e?
I really like it! Moferan gan!
I’m hungry Ebi npa mi
I’m thirsty Orungbe ngbe mi
He is funny Apani lerin ni
In The Morning l’owuro
In the evening N’irole
At Night L’ale
Hurry up! Se kia!
(Cuss Words (polite): Its good to know these so you know when someone is cussing at you. please dont cuss)
This is nonsense! (or: this is craziness) Kantan kantan leyi!
My God! (to show amazement) Oluwa o!
Oh gosh! (when making a mistake) Mogbe!
It sucks! (or: this is not good) Eyi oda!
What’s wrong with you? Kilo ndamu e?
Are you crazy? S’onsiere ni?
Get lost! (or: go away!) Kuroni’waju mi!
Leave me alone! Fimi sile!
I’m not interested! Ko wunmi!
(Writing a Letter)
Dear John John mi owan
My trip was very nice Irin ajo mi dara
The culture and people were very interesting Asa ati awon eyan yi daa gan ni
I had a good time with you Mogbadun igba ti molo pelu e
I would love to visit your country again Mafe lati wa si orile ede re si
Don’t forget to write me back from time to time Magbagbe lati mak’owe simi ni gbogbo igba
(Short Expressions and words)
So-so (or: not bad not good) Koda kobaje
Me (ie. Who did this? – Me) Emi
Him Owun (okunrin)
Her Owun (obinrin)
When? Nigba wo?
Why? kilo fa?