I took a second semester of Yoruba?

Who knew?? All I remember how to say today is hello, although God knows that was enough to weird out the Yoruba taxi driver who took me to the Boston airport a couple weeks ago… #cleaningthebasement

3 thoughts on “I took a second semester of Yoruba?”

  1. These days, I am more inclined to learn Kinyarwanda for project reasons, but it doesn’t have to be such an exotic language as that or Yorùbá – a language I remember more as a form of torture from classes in African languages.

    I remember a day at the Hannover Fair somewhere in the early 1990, when I was there as one of the respected representatives of a well-respected German research institute at exactly that institute’s booth – eagerly waiting for potentially-interested visitors to drop by and engage in conversations.

    Enter the highly-respected Japanese delegation! As it happens, a delegation of maybe 15 Japanese people or so decided to pay our booth a visit… after an awkward moment (perceived like minutes) of them stopping in respectful distance and all us desperately pondering about what to do next, I remembered a bit of Japanese from my three quarters of courses at the university. I stepped ahead and declared “OHAYOOO!”, slightly bowing to the delegation. They were quite puzzled and could not resist echoing the same, including the bow. My colleagues were slightly surprised and probably wondered what kind of threatening spell I had just pronounced.

    Then all started laughing and we indeed had an interesting conversation in broken English and a few words of German or Japanese here an there. It did not matter. It worked.

    Showing respect to other cultures and languages means that you show interest. Even if it is just a “Hello” or “Good morning” in the mother tongue of your opposite – it’s a sign of “I respect you, and I cannot speak your language, but I try to say something nevertheless.” It does make a difference whether you greet that Greek taxi driver with a “Kalimera” or a “Good morning”. Chinese people, of course, find it utterly funny when big-nosed foreigners miss the tonality principles of their language… but humour also opens doors.

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