Yoruba is the first language of approximately 30 million West Africans, and is spoken by populations in Southwestern Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Sierra Leone. Based on the number of people for whom Yoruba is the first language, the political, cultural, and social importance of the language within Africa, and United States national interests tied to economic and diplomatic relations with Yoruba-speaking areas, Yoruba was recognized among the Less Commonly Taught languages as a first priority language by a national panel of language teachers.
Students cite many reasons for studying Yoruba, including personal interest in West African cultures, research interests, and fulfillment of foreign language requirements. African-American students often study Yoruba out of interest in their own heritage, since many of the slaves brought to North America during the 18th and 19th centuries came from Yoruba-speaking areas.
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