Tag Archives: Chinglish

Getting Kids to Speak Africa’s Languages, One Doll at a Time

Once every couple of months, Cartoon Queen Carol Hills and I pick five language stories to chat about. They’re all news stories of some sort, but none has made much of a splash. These are stories we chose this time:

The Future of Yoruba

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is worried that young Nigerians aren’t speaking Yoruba. The language is the native tongue of between 20-30 million people—mainly Nigerians, but also some Beninese and Togolese.

Girl with Rooti dolls. (Photo: Rooti Dolls)

(Photo: Rooti Dolls)

Many of Nigeria’s best-known cultural exports—Soyinka, Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade—were brought up as Yoruba speakers. Now there are calls to switch the language of instruction in schools and colleges from English to Yoruba. The idea is to head off a catastrophic crash before it’s too late.

A small part of the effort to keep Yoruba alive among young people is Rooti Dolls. It’s the brainchild of London-based Nigerian entrepreneur Chris Chidi Ngoforo. Big Show host Marco and I talked about Rooti Dolls and Yoruba in the broadcast:

Rooti Dolls are like regular speaking dolls, except that they each speak four or five languages. There are twelve in the series, covering close to 50 languages. They all also speak English, which they use to teach a few words in their African languages. The idea is to expose these languages to children who may be living far from their ancestral homelands. Ngoforo himself is raising three young daughters in exactly that situation (the family’s ancestral language isn’t Yoruba, but another Nigerian language, Igbo).

Also discussed in the podcast:



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Linguistic Rectification, Slavic Pronunciation, and the Tori Spelling Connection

Wrocław is the largest city in Western Poland. But how do you pronounce it?


In this World in Words podcast, Cartoon Queen Carol Hills and I discuss five language-related stories from blogs and news sites:

1. Linguistically rectifying Chinese food, one menu at a time. In its latest “linguistic rectification campaign,” Beijing is urging Chinese restaurants to take more care in translating menu items into English. That way, items like The car hit cheese bacon mushroom face may be less likely to show up on menus. More’s the pity.  However, with more Chinese immigrants and tourists coming to the US, poorly constructed Chinese may be coming to a subway station or hotel near you.

2. You say diamond; I say rhombus. Will an overhaul in math terminology in the US improve the performance of math students?

3. How do you pronounce Wrocław, Kraków, or Kiev? (I’ve included the diacritics for Wroclaw and Krakow as they appear in Polish, just to up the mystery ante.) The BBC Pronunciation Unit comes to the rescue with suggested pronunciations for many Euro 2012 soccer tournament’s host cities. We also discuss the simmering debate over Ukraine’s two languages: Ukrainian and Russian. A previous report on this issue is here.

4. The idiosyncratic glory of “unnecessary” quotation marks. Take your pick: Happy “Father” Day. The First Baptist Church: We “Love” All People! Real Estate “Lady.” Many more “here.” And thank you,  Bethany Keeley.

5. Do biodiversity and linguistic diversity go hand in hand? A recent study suggests they may do. There are some seemingly obvious reasons why this may be the case, but the study is cautious not to jump to conclusions.

We also talk about Tori Spelling. With a name like that it was only a matter of time. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more. Suffice to say for now that I was particularly taken by this article.

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