Yoruba is one of Nigeria’s most important languages, with over twenty-five million native
speakers. It is spoken predominantly in the western part of Nigeria and along the coastal
regions of the Republic of Benin and Togo. It is a lingua franca among business communities
in West Africa, and has also survived as the most important African language in the Americas,
dating from the days of the Slave Trade. It is indispensable for research into African-
derived religions of the African Diaspora in North America and Europe. Yoruba is not only
a language of communication and self-expression (praise songs and literature), but also a
language of religion among the Santería religious communities in Cuba and among the
Candomble worshiping communities in Brazil.
Yoruba made the transition from oral to written in the early 19th century with the spread of
Islam, and as a result developed Yoruba Classical Arabic literature, as well as Classical
Yoruba literary and literacy traditions in Arabic script commonly referred to as Yoruba
Ajami. The implantation of Christianity in Yorubaland, later in the mid nineteenth century, led
to the translation of the Bible in Yoruba language and the adoption of Roman alphabet for
writing the language. Bible translation generated the development of a standard form of the
language. Ever since, literature in Yoruba language has provided the foundation for a
cultural expression that is one of the most remarkable in Africa.
The Department of AMESALL currently offers Yoruba through the Intermediate level.