In response to Richard’s question:
“Here’s the 1,000 dollar question: if you had to learn Hausa or Igbo, what resources would you use if you weren’t living in Nigeria?”
My answer will also include Yoruba, the third official language of Nigeria.
For both Igbo and Yoruba, there is a large community of Nigerians in the USA, UK and France. Igbos are fervent Christians and mainly Catholics while Yorubas are Christians and Muslims (50/50). Therefore, find those churches or mosques and be a part of the religious community and in time you will find someone happy to teach you Igbo or Yoruba.
If you are a student at university or you live close to a student campus, chances are there will be a Nigerian society group. You can definitely check them out and you may just find Hausas in the group.
Hausas are predominantly muslims and as a foreign born and bred Nigerian, I was only aware of one Hausa girl in my boarding school history (10 years). A rare event that is becoming more and more common today. When you meet Nigerians in Western states, chances are that the majority will be Igbo, Yoruba or half Hausa but like I said things are changing. Dubai should be an interesting place to meet all three ethnic groups! Remember that as a man, it would be best to seek out male Hausas and as a woman seek out female Hausas to be on the safe side. 🙂
My other advice is to watch Nollywood films and they are available in Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, you will learn a lot about the culture but it would be best to have a basic grasp of the language because the subtitles will provoke tears of laughter and distract you from what is actually happening in the film.
If I had to rate the languages by accessibility, Igbo and Yoruba are on a par, while Hausa will demand a lot more effort if you want to meet Hausas and interact with them.
Apart from church or films, I really don’t know how one goes about learning these languages.
There are lessons you could take at the SOAS university in London, UK. They have Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo evening courses. INALCO university in Paris, France also offers lessons but only for degree seeking kids. There must be the equivalent in the USA, I am thinking Georgetown university, Cleveland State university, Texas university and UCLA. I know that Atlanta has a crazy number of Nigerians living, working and studying there and you will definitely find someone.
Livemocha or any such site could be the next step, there is potential. Since the speakers of these languages are to be found in Africa, the internet penetration rate is low, this means you might not find many XXX speakers on the internet let alone on Livemocha.
In conclusion, these languages are difficult primarily because a lot of the self-learning resources available for Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa may not be as satisfactory as what is available for learning Japanese, French or Russian. This is unfortunate but it is the reality for now.
I hope I answered your question 🙂