Nigerians Shake Up Twitter with Yoruba-Language Tweets

Twitter was abuzz with Yoruba, one of the three major indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria, on March 1, 2013 as speakers of the language lit up the microblogging site with tweets in Yoruba as part of a campaign to celebrate the language on social media and pressure Twitter to include it in its translation project.

Nigeria, famed for a population of 160 million, officially speaks English but also has more than 500 ethnic languages, with Yoruba being one of three major native languages spoken there. It also spoken along the West African coast in Benin and Togo as well as Cuba and Brazil.

Users tweeted in Yoruba under the hashtags #tweetYoruba and #twitterYoruba. One of the organizers of the campaign, Kola Tubosun (@baroka) explained the reasoning behind the effort on his blog:

The Tweet Yoruba Day on March 1, 2013* is to continue the annual tradition, but with less emphasis on pressuring Twitter but on celebrating the beauty and importance of the mother tongue usage in the age of modernity. It might never happen any time soon that the only means of communication online would be any of these local languages with a limited number of speakers (Yoruba has over 30 million), but as long as these means of communication exist, there would always be new ways of transmitting culture and a distinct world-view.

The Nigeria Tweet Yoruba day began last year and garnered enough attention to be contacted by a Twitter translation official, Tubosun wrote. But aside from a brief follow-up from Twitter, there hasn't been any news since:

This practice began last year as a means to pressure Twitter to include Yoruba in the list of languages into which the platform is being translated. There was a partial success in form of a response by a Twitter translation desk official who assured that while the message has been heard, it would take a little while more to include the language, for logistic reasons.

#TweetInYoruba Day 20013 (Credit:

#TweetInYoruba Day 2013 (Credit:

Here are some tweets with our translation from the #TweetInYoruba Day:

@DAINJURER: Oloore re ko ni fi obituary da e mo! Fi adura yi ranse si eniyan mewa ti o feranju. #tweetinyoruba

@DAINJURER: Your predestined helper will not get to know you through your obituary. Send this to ten of your loved ones.

@renoomokri: Bi iwo ko tile gba wipe ohun kan wa ti o le se lati gbe Naijiria ga, saa gbagbo wipe Naijiria, orile-ede títóbi ni. #tweetYoruba

@renoomokri: A tweet to all Nigerians: Even if you believe there is nothing you can do to make Nigeria great, at least believe that Nigeria can be great. #tweetYoruba

@baroka: Since the day is young in other parts of the world, ibi ni emi a ti duro na. Eyin ara Amerika, e maa ba iyoku lo. E ti yege na #tweetYoruba

@baroka: This is where I will stop. The Americans should continue with the remaining. You will succeed. #tweetYoruba

@seunonigbinde: Oluwaseun : Thank you Lord, Olayide: Wealth has come, Temitope: Mine is joy OniGBINde: the royal drummer has come #tweetYoruba

@bumight: Ewo ti e ni ede gèésì ti mo fi n twiiti yii? #tweetYoruba

@bumight: Why am I tweeting in English? #tweetYoruba

@molarawood: O dabii pe awon ara Amerika fe ki Kadinali (cardinal) won yi, Timothy Dolan, di Poopu lehin Benedikti. Sugbon emi o ro bee. #tweetYoruba

@molarawood: It seems the Americans want their Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, to become the Pope after Benedict. But I don’t think it’s possible #tweetYoruba

Much of the African continent's important writing is happening on social media these days, Nigerian literary critic Ikhide Ikheloa (@ikhide) said in a recent interview on the literary blog Brittle Paper. Given that language and literature are integral components of a nation's identity, put down the novel and log on to Twitter and Facebook for a well-rounded idea of the world, he said:

It is interesting and frustrating to me that when we talk about literature, it is always in the context of books, alone. It is perhaps now inappropriate to use books as the sole determinant of cultural norms in today’s world. I would go further and say, in the 21st century, the book is a wretched barometer of African writing. You will need to go to the two most important African novels – Twitter and Facebook, in addition to blogs and websites to get a really good read on these issues… One reason I do not read books as much these days is that I cannot get enough of the writing on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. I am transfixed…



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