Alumnus Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún’s Work on Preserving African Languages

Since graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2012 with a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún has worked for three years as a high school teacher of English (2012-2015), a Speech Linguist at Google (2015/2019), and a lexicographical advisor/consultant for Oxford University Press Dictionaries (2018-date).

From linguistics to technology, Túbọ̀sún’s work spans many fields and for the past four years, he has been working on a number of personal projects dedicated to preserving African languages online. One of these projects is known as the Yorùbá Names Project at YorubaName.com. “In early 2015, I launched YorubaName.com, a multimedia dictionary of Yorùbá Names, the first of its kind. The project includes free diacritic marker for Yorùbá and Igbo, also the first of its kind. In 2015, I was offered the role of a Speech Linguist at Google in Nigeria. I took it, and I have been working there, on and off, since then,” he commented.

Túbọ̀sún first came to SIUE as a Fulbright Scholar in 2009 which informed much of his later work as a travel writer. He taught Yorùbá in the Department of Foreign Language and Literature for a school year and returned in the fall of 2010 for graduate school, graduating in 2012. “These three years and my experience here in Edwardsville and surrounding areas is the subject of my 2018 poetry memoir titled Edwardsville by Heart,” he stated. The book is dedicated to Professor Rudolph G. Wilson who took him in as his son during his stay in Edwardsville. “Professor Wilson drove me to many of the places I visited, and welcomed me into his house for food and parties and conversations more times than I can count.” In his honor, Túbọ̀sún created a wikipedia page for him.

During his time at the University, Túbọ̀sún was inspired by teachers like Ronald P. Schaefer, Rudolph Wilson, Kristine Hildebrandt, Seran Aktuna, Joel Hardman, Belinda Carstens-Wickham, and Eugene B. Redmon, among others. “I also loved my professors and the often laid-back yet exacting lectures that demanded a lot of our mental muscles. Mentoring and collegial contacts with these teachers made a whole lot of difference.”

 Túbọ̀sún is most well known for his work in language advocacy and his list of activities and accolades are expansive. He co-published a book of essays on African linguistics in 2011 and he has been working on other language advocacy projects since 2012. In 2016, he received the The Ostana Prize, becoming the first African to be honoured for work in Indigenous language advocacy. He is currently a Miles Morland Scholar, working on a nonfiction book on Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature. He currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria with his wife and two children, a teenage girl and a five year-old son. To learn more about him, you can visit his wikipedia page.

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