We’re so glad you’ve taken the time to start learning Igbo! A few things to remember on your Igbo learning journey:
- Learning anything proficiently takes time and dedication, so the more time you put in, the more you’ll learn.
- Igbo and English are not the same. In fact, they are very different languages which developed independently from each other. So, trying to translate exactly what you want to say from English to Igbo, and vice versa will not always work.
Once you get the hang of it, learning Igbo will give you a better understanding of Igbo expression, humour and culture. As a tonal language, it’s essential to get the tone as accurate as possible. The best way to learn Igbo fast is to simulate immersion by exposing yourself to Igbo and focusing on mimicking. After two weeks of spending 1 hour a day doing this, we promise you will see noticeable improvements!
One of the most challenging things about learning tonal languages is mastering pronunciation. Be patient with yourself! It’s like learning to play an instrument. If you’re not used to speaking a language, you need to train the muscles in your mouth to express the words accurately! All this takes time and effort, but you’ll get there with a lot of practice!
Exposure, repetition, and mimicry
- Watch Igbo cartoons/movies and listen to Igbo songs as much as you can (even if you don’t understand). The more you expose yourself to the sound, the more familiar you’ll be with the phonics of the language.
- After listening to a dialogue, try to pause and repeat it out loud, repeat the dialogue by reading the Igbo text aloud, then read the English text and translate it into Igbo speech.
- Take your phone and record yourself, play the recording back and compare it with the original dialogue to see how similar it sounds.
- Challenge yourself! If you can, replace common words/phrases you say in your everyday life with the Igbo equivalent, the more you speak, the more confident you’ll become.
With all that said, k’anyi bido!
To start with, learn the alphabet to practice general Igbo phonetics. This will give you a good foundation in Igbo sounds.
Master Zeji has a great video teaching the Igbo alphabet. It’s also helpful to visualise mouth movements when the letters are spoken.
Try to read the letters aloud:
A B CH D E F
G GB GH GW H I
Ị J K KP KW L
M N NW NY Ṅ O
Ọ P R S SH T
U Ụ V W Y Z
So how can you improve your Igbo in two weeks?
These simple steps will help you speed up your learning. Feel free to adapt them to suit your level.
Step 1) 1st Week – Diving in head first (Days 1 – 3)
Practice sound drills as much as possible! What are sound drills, you may ask?
For the first three days, listen to Igbo as much as possible. Try to dedicate at least one hour daily to listening to Igbo audio via movies, radio, music etc. It’ll help get you more familiar with the tonality and sounds of language.
Where to find Igbo audio, we’ve got you covered with a few:
- Igbo radio stations
- Igbo language series: Ogbe Nsogbu
- Igbo movies
- Igbo cartoons: Ije the world traveller
- Igbo language series: Nekwa
Step 2) 1st Week – Watch and repeat (Days 4 – 7)
As you continue watching and listening to Igbo content, spend at least 15 mins a day trying to mimic the Igbo audio you hear. Babies do this as they learn languages, and it’s quite an excellent way to get your mouth muscles used to produce the sounds required to speak the language. Igbo radio (podcast) and the children’s series Ije, the world traveller are excellent websites to use. Both allow you to stop, start and rewind the audio.
You might feel silly to start with, but mimicking can do a world word of good for your speaking.
How: Listen for a few seconds, pause the audio and repeat what you just heard out loud. Repeat until you think you’ve got the sound right.
2nd Week – Learn and master the basics
- Greetings: The link leads to some basic greetings in Igbo. Try to learn and master them.
- Learning 70 words: Each day, write down ten of the most common English words/phrases you use in a day and try to translate them into Igbo.
By the end of the week, you should have learnt 70 words. If you can, at the end of the week, ask someone to test you on the words to see how many you can remember.
How to translate words: Using the online dictionary Nkowa Okwu, you can search for words in English and find the Igbo translation. Many of the words also have audio.
Yes, it might sound like a lot, but it’ll be worth it by the end of the two weeks when you’ll know much more Igbo than you did at the start!