The project provides a platform on twitter for speakers of Yoruba in Nigeria and around the world. Like the famous @sweden project, the twitter account @TweetYoruba will feature a new Yoruba speaker every fortnight, and their role will be to express themselves fully in Yoruba. The project seeks to fill a void on twitter for Yoruba speakers. Currently, there is none or few twitter accounts where one can read ONLY in Yoruba language. The domineering nature of English has crowded out the voices of local languages. Through this project, we will empower more people to use the L1 on social networks.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Lagos, and everywhere else.
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
Yoruba language speakers do not usually use the language on social networks, because of the influence of English. There is basically NO twitter account where Yoruba is used for ALL means of communication. The target population are those online who are hungry for communication in the Yoruba language: cultural enthusiasts, citizens, language policy makers, and linguists. There gap in the language presence online has created the impression that the language is endangered, or useless for the technological age. This isn't true, but might become a self-fulfilling prophesy if nothing is done. I am a linguist who has taught Yoruba to different populations, and I'm interested in anything to make the language more relevant for present times.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
1. A friend and colleague, prize-winning poet, and language enthusiast: Peter Akinlabi (currently a test case for the project at @tweetYoruba). His twitter handle is @ayemidun.
2. Another friend of mine and speaker of Yoruba as a second language, American Kevin Barry (@kayodeoyinbo).
3. Colleague and writer of children's stories Ayodele Olofintuade (@aeolofintuade)
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
My vision of of a twitter account that is vibrant and relevant, that shows a rounded image of an average Yoruba person living in whatever part of the world. During the two weeks when the person selected (from application) holds the twitter handle, he/she will tweet about things relevant to himself/herself but only in Yoruba. There will be politics, personal opinions, artwork, photography, jokes, music, etc. The aim is to present a rounded individual who just happens to be able to express himself/herself in their mother tongue without any trouble. Hopefully, as a larger goal, it may finally convince twitter to include Yoruba as a language into which the social media platform is being translated. This has been a goal of mine for a long time.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established or plan to establish that will contribute to the success of the project.
Through my travel blog (www.ktravula.com), in 2012, I initiated the annual #TweetYoruba project, where Yoruba language speakers online are encouraged to use the language ONLY through the one day of the event. The day is March 1, and we have successfully held three of those events. More about it can be found here: http://goo.gl/g2HkX1, including news reports about it that have been covered by this publication (http://goo.gl/9PeL1Z).
Since then, we have made a number of other partnerships through twitter, chief of which is a direct link to the director of Twitter's translation engine (@lenazun). Through the #TweetYoruba Day events, we have also struck up collaboration with a number of journalists, linguists, and language enthusiasts like @feathersprojects and @molarawood
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
The good thing about the project is that it is a rotating one. Once the person selected to man the account is done, he/she leaves (likely with a printed acknowledgement and thanks). Another one comes in, and the process continues. @Sweden has shown us how to make this work. By the end of the year, we would have “trained” or utilised the participation of at least 26 Nigerians (at the rate of one per two weeks, during a 52 weeks of the year). This is not counting the number of followers that the twitter account will continue to have – an audience that will gain as well as contribute to the success of the project.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
Having taught Yoruba at the university level as a Fulbright scholar in 2009-2010, and having spent a lifetime pursuing interests in language acquisition, language attitudes, language translation, and language teaching, I am most qualified to head this project. The partners I select are also leaders in their fields who have shown commitment to the development of local languages. Peter works in poetry and has translated a number of works from English to Yoruba, while Ayo has experience in working with children of different ages, learning either English or Yoruba.
This technology is appropriate because it has been shown to reach a wide number of people and facilitate change. Most importantly, Yoruba is being left out of the listening sphere as far as this platform is concerned.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The Faculty of Arts at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, is a perfect place for training. For participants in Lagos, there is the Co-Creation Hub (www.cchubnigeria.com). Even though there are computers there, we are working on the premise that visitors will bring their own laptops. Internet connection via wi-fi can be provided. Nigerian internet can be as fast as 1mb/s.
The two spaces have projectors, free open spaces, and a conducive room for meetings and workshops. The good thing about this project, however, is how we can reach out to participants without having to meet them face-to-face.
What is your current relationship with the community with whom you plan to work? What makes you the most appropriate individual or organization to implement this project?
Like I said earlier, I have enormous experience in the field of language teaching, language translation, language acquisition, and language advocacy. Over the course of over five years, I have used by blog (www.ktravula.com) and my twitter handle (@baroka) to advocate for better treatment of Yoruba in the public square of information technology. I am currently translating a novel from English into Yoruba.
I have deep and lasting working relationships with scholars in the fields of linguistics and language acquisition. This is important to me. I hope to also remain as committed to this as I have been since childhood. My coming PhD program hopes to focus on language acquisition (as did my MA thesis which focused on the acquisition of Yoruba tonal patterns by American English students.)
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
There are no security concerns, since participants will be tweeting from the safe protection of their houses/phones.
There are no foreseeable obstacles except for the lack of things to talk about during a two weeks twitter “apprenticeship”, so to speak. To address this, we will be willing to consider the possibility of reducing the period while the person holds the twitter account to one week (like the folks at @sweden do), but that is only IF the experiment with two weeks leads to a dull and uninspiring result.
The only other concern is that those handling the twitter account might dive too deep into politics to get themselves in trouble. We will have guidelines advising that they don't. They will be free to express themselves, but not to the extent of attacking personalities.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
Success to us will be having people line up to participate while one person is already on. If we get so many applications during each run that we have to have (online or offline) interviews to choose the most appropriate person, then we would have succeeded.
We would also have succeeded if the project gets good press, and more people talk about it. And, specifically, if it leads to more people using Yoruba on twitter as their primary languages.
If it gets twitter to finally include Yoruba as a language into which the platform is translated, like they promised to us earlier (http://goo.gl/4xL2M), that would have been worthwhile.
And finally, if alumni of our programme go on to become great people, and even louder advocates of mother tongue use, we would have succeeded.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
*June 1: Launch the project with a webpage of its own. (Right now, we're experimenting with my blog). Publicize it on all social networks (twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
*Monday, June 30: Launch the first participant.
*Every other fortnight (or week) from then on, rotate the participants and create social media buzz.
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
Internet Access for one year (at $100 per month): $1200
Printing of physical diplomas (or commemorative cards for 26 participants at $20): $520
Website and/or any other social media expense $600
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
News links would help. There was one a couple of months ago: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/03/06/nigerians-shake-up-twitter-with-yoruba-language-tweets
Interviews with the organisers and participants would be helpful too, published on social media.
For now, KTravula.com