Welcome to the first Yoruba lesson on Naijish!
We are going to start from the Yoruba alphabet, pronounced àlìfàbẹ́ẹ̀tì (basically the word alphabet said in a heavy Yoruba accent).
The Yoruba alphabet actually looks very similar to the English alphabet, you’re not learning a whole new writing system like in Greek or Japanese, so it shouldn’t take you too long to get the hang of it.
To start you off, I’ve created a table below showing you how to pronounce individual letters and how to pronounce these letters when they’re in words. You know, like how we pronounce the letter b as ‘bee’ but when it’s in a word it sounds like ‘buh’ like in the words ‘block’, ‘bread and ‘brown’.
Alphabet in Yoruba with audio
|Letter||Individual Letter Pronunciation||Pronunciation in words||Audio|
|a||ah||pronounced as the a in ‘apple’|
|b||bee||pronounced as the b in ‘bold’|
|d||dee||pronounced as the d in ‘door’|
|e||pronounced as the ‘ai’ in ‘aim’||pronounced as the ‘ai’ in ‘aim’|
|ẹ||pronounced as the e in ‘effort’||pronounced as the e in ‘effort’|
|f||fee||pronounced as the f in ‘for’|
|g||gee||pronounced as the g in ‘gold’|
|gb||no English equivalent||no English equivalent|
|h||hee||pronounced as the h in ‘hold’|
|i||ee||pronounced as the ee in ‘fee’|
|j||jee||pronounced as the j in ‘jack’|
|k||kee||pronounced as the k in ‘koala’|
|l||lee||pronounced as the l in ‘live’|
|m||mee||pronounced as the m in ‘may’|
|n||nee||pronounced as the n in ‘not’|
|o||ohh||pronounced as the o in ‘old’|
|ọ||pronounced as the o in ‘opera’||pronounced as the o in ‘opera’|
|p||no English equivalent||no English equivalent|
|r||ree||pronounced as the r in ‘read’|
|s||see||pronounced as the s in ‘say’|
|ṣ||she||pronounced as the sh in ‘shall’|
|t||tea||pronounced as the t in ‘tall’|
|u||oo||pronounced as the oo in ‘cool’|
|w||we||pronounced as the w in ‘water’|
|y||yee||pronounced as the y in ‘youth’|
From the table above you probably came across two really forgeign sounding letters, P and Gb. I know, I could have told you about them earlier, but I didn’t want to put you off. These two sounds aren’t found in English and can be quite tricky for English speakers to pronounce, so here’s a top tip to pronounce the letter P, say the words pig and big at the same time, inspired by this article.
Two more things! The ‘n’ in Yoruba can sometimes have a nasal sound, and sound like the ‘n’ in sing (this happens in the word fẹ́ràn). Don’t worry, with practice you can get better at anticipating if an ‘n’ is going to be nasal or not.
The other thing! The ‘a’ in Yoruba can sometimes sound like an ọ when it’s next to an ‘n’ (like the ‘a’ in the word fẹ́ràn), again, you get better at anticipating this with practice.
For a video on the Yoruba alphabet, check out our Yoruba Alphabet video.
Well done! You’ve completed the first Yoruba language lesson, that wasn’t anywhere near as challenging as you thought it would be, was it? The next lesson will be on how to pronounce words in Yoruba.