A lot of languages around the world have been classified as endangered and Nigerian languages are not an exception. One language teacher and Yorùbá author, Dahunsi Akinyemi, has shared worries that the Yoruba language, may die out in 20 years.
A lot of initiatives are coming up to stem the tide of such an eventuality. One example is Gbemisola Isimi’s CultureTreeTV – a YouTube channel that features stunning and colorful 3D animation videos of popular English nursery rhymes which have been translated to Yoruba.
Another one and the lead up to the idea being featured in this article is Kola Tubosun’s 2015 creation; Yorubaname.com. Yorubaname.com by the linguist who was trying to preserve and document all Yorùbá names in a multimedia format.
It was the first step in a long-term project to document all types of African cultural experiences on the internet. The website fully launched in February 2016, and currently, has over 5,000 entries. Individual donors contributed to an Indiegogo fundraising campaign that ran from January to March 2015 to raise the funds for the project.
TTS Yoruba is the next step
Yorubaname.com wants to take their project to the next step by launching a Yoruba text-to-speech initiative, TTS Yoruba. TTS Yoruba is intended as a program which will sound out written Yoruba text.
Kola Tubosun spoke about the plan in an interview with Okay Africa:
“Yoruba has over 30 million speakers. That is already a huge population that can benefit from this kind of innovation. Many of those 30 million do not speak English at all, which means that they are shut out of a number of things involving technology.”
“If a market woman can use an ATM in her local language, I think that empowers her. If she can speak to her phone in Yoruba and it does what she wants, that’s a leap forward.”
To that end, the initiative is trying to raise $4,000 to create the application which will be a game-changer for the way African languages are preserved.