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THIS THING ABOUT ACCENTS

This thing about foreign accents on our lips…

It just will not go away.

Actually, I won’t let it go away, because every day I hear a new one, either in its pure form or in combination with another. Everybody wants to board this train – the upwardly-mobile kids from upper class families, students from middle income homes, young boys and girls who just “come from village”, upcoming musicians, established musicians, Nollywood stars, heads of Corporate Nigeria and newscasters and presenters in the electronic media. On a very good day, you would have to strain to understand what is being said during News Bulletins, Interviews, Fashion Shows, Product Launches, Reality Shows, Talent Contests and various other events. Sometimes I can’t help but think these imported accents are a prerequisite to gaining employment in these organizations, the way that one must take a GS course in English Language in order to study for a degree course in any Nigerian University.

So, what’s wrong with having a foreign accent, I hear you ask.

Absolutely nothing, is what I’d say. But when you start to sound ridiculous…that’s when we’ll give you a second look. There’s nothing wrong with allowing that Igbo accent to become diluted with Americanese, or when that Calabar intonation gets infused with some drops of Britico. Nothing wrong, my dear, but please while you’re at it – while you are slurring, drawling, stretching your vowels to the ends of the earth, “chewing” your words like somebody eating hard meat, undulating the tone of your voice, rolling your Rs as though you have hot yam in your mouth and generally sounding breathless and nasal – kindly ensure that it’s intelligible, authentic and believable. Thank you!

So, as we’re busy working these accents, I ask myself all the time, “Why do people equate speaking well with sounding contrived?” Nobody’s even giving a thought to the casualties which, in this case, are words. Poor English words! Simple basic words which make up our everyday vocabulary become manipulated into different variations and distortions on the tongues of those who would have them sound different by all means. A word like “But” metamorphoses to Burr, Burrt or, worse, Burrth; Fruit becomes Fruith; Carrot becomes Carroth; Fashion is pronounced Fershurrn; Close is pronounced Claus; Give becomes Gerv; After starts to sound like Orfterh; Weather sounds like Wethrrr; Later like Leto, and I did hear a radio presenter pronounce Chibok as Chibuurk! The originators of the English Language must be somersaulting in their graves each time we open our mouths to speak!

The most irritating is when somebody swings from one accent to another in one short conversation. What people don’t realise is that when they sound this way, they’re no different from that Igbo man they just made fun of because he pronounced Market as Mar-kate. See?

Don’t we just love the way people from the Southern parts of Africa sound? Or when our Ghanaian Bratherz and Sisterz speak? Their native accents would usually be in place, yet we don’t make an effort to understand them.

I can’t help it, I hear you say. Really? Why is that? Aunty, you’ve been back to Naija for almost ten years and you travel for only two weeks every year for holidays, so why are you still holding on tenaciously to that Scottish accent you acquired while studying for an 18-month masters degree program? You have even made it worse by adding an Australian accent to it. I’ll tell you something, that accent – or those accents, depending on how many you wear at each point in time – is tired of you. Please set it free, let them go! You dey hear me so?

Anyway…You know what I blame? I blame globalization, that’s what I blame. The whole world has become like the biblical blessing that is “pressed down, shaken together and running over.” All aspects of our lives and culture, including Education, Language, Music, Fashion, Foods have been thrown inside one huge global pot and cooked together. Today, the world has become the clichéd global village with groups of persons becoming custodians and imitators of the lifestyles of other groups of persons. Sometimes the influence from other cultures is so pervasive that it becomes difficult to remember where a particular influence, idea or trend originated from. Technology and the media have helped to spread this gospel of integration and socialization. The only problem I see in this whole thing is that, in struggling to be like others, some of us stand the risk of losing our essence completely.

But isn’t it noteworthy that there are some races we never want to imitate. I don’t see people trying to sound Kenyan or Indian or Lebanese or French or even Ghanaian. This begs for deeper questions. It says a lot about the dynamics of power and superiority. Even as I wouldn’t ascribe some profound, high-sounding political or socio-cultural reason to this trend, I would say that this desire to sound like others may stem from a place of discontent or lack of confidence about who we are; and that would be because mentally, we already have a reference point about which race is better than the other and worthy to be emulated.

It’s so sweet when you hear somebody speak naturally and effortlessly, with good diction, good pronunciation, elocution, intonation and little or no linguistic interference. It sounds like music to the ears.

And don’t we all love music?

Written by Vivian Ogbonna, tweets @vivianogbonna8 and blogs at undertheinfluence.wordpress.com


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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38 comments

  1. Can someone send this article to Toke Makinwa please!

  2. Lol. Nice write up. Reminds me of when i started a training and we were all asked to introduce ourselves. I was wondering if i was in another part of the world. British accent spoken with American English and i’m like really?? Funny how now we all talk and the accent takes a back seat until there is someone to impress and they switch it back on. It must be a tiring life.

  3. Truth is, to get a job as a radio presenter in Lagos, you’ve gotta lay claim to an accent. British and American being the most prefered, i think.

  4. Truly truly happens every where!

  5. This is also why I don’t listen to the radio in nigeria

  6. Truth b told, we Nigerians love d *CopyCat life a lot. We copy everything from clothes(I’ve seen a lady in Leather jackets under d scorching sun!) to shoes(another scenario of ridiculously high heel like Twin Towers in NY, and a case of knee length leather booths!) to even seasonal movies, not to talk of accents. What we don’t know is that, ppl a recognized by what state they come from in d USA, jst as an Yorubas, Igbos, Calabars and Hausas are recognized by their accents in Nigeria. Most of all these accent imitators are just talking nonsensical phonetics! And to think Nigerian English has been endorsed in d Oxford Dictionary, some of us are still desperately holding unto foreign accent. It’s those ones that are jst opportune a visit to d outside shore of Nigeria that won’t even allow us rest! Empty Drum makes d loudest noise…

  7. It’s pretty hilarious… brings to mind those days at the Nigerian Law School, I was awed by folks who studied law in the USA speaking in the British clipped tongue, even folks from Republique du Benin(a Francophone country).
    What got me Rotfl was. ”and I did hear a radio presenter pronounce Chibok as Chibuurk”.
    Folks just gotta blend in by force…that’s why I really dig this actress, Buki Ajayi,her pronunciation is near perfect…

  8. Oh my gwace! Ovaly funny n annoyin too lyk m frnd tellin me fuel z fiel or purse z perse….m dt I have d “r” factor n ayam always uncom4table sef

  9. Funny enough.. I love the Kenyan, Ghanian and French accents.. If there was an accent I’d like to have or “copy”, it’d be the Kenyan accent.. I just love the way the few Kenyans I’ve met speak..lol.. However, my naija accent ‘issorai’ for me.

  10. Oh this is a purrfect piss, it was so, you know, enturtaining.

  11. Wow! Am so grateful I read this, shed the light on a trend we are welcoming without questioning it’s source. Properly pronounced words still remains the safer bet, our accents will definitely spill one way or the other. But when we talk and we forget the most important aspect of communication is decoding, we will end up sounding like Terry G’s music; many content little substance.

  12. By Jove! This was a wundaaafirl piece aiinit.
    Sincerely, it really pisses me off nd some pple can like to form, dey avent boarded luxurious bus frm lagos to Abuja before not to talk of a plane. *fans self frm excessive venting.
    I have a bit of an accent cuz i was trained by Igbo teachers nd pple often ask if am Igbo frm tym to tym nd u dnt see me trying to change, i tink its high tym pple started appreciating their local accent for wat it is.
    As long as u enunciate properly i dnt see what the problem is.

  13. God! Vivian, you’re in my head!!!! I couldn’t have written it better.
    Cc: Toke Makinwa, Toolz, Osas Ighodaro, Moet Abebe, and all them fake-ass radio OAPs that would be forming Britico and still say things like “paparazziS”!!!!!!!!

  14. This is one friggin’ hilarious article! I have only the new generation broadcasting houses to blame for this ugly trend! I remember vivdly back in the days, when ace broadvasters like Ronke Ayuba, Frank Olize, Sonny Irabor, Olabisi Olatilo, John Momoh, Cyril Stober, Sienne All-well Brown, Tokunbo Ajayi, Ruth Benamaisia-Opia, Ohi Alegbe, Femi Felix Fashina, Jumobi Adegbesan now Mofe-Damijo, Abike Dabiri and so many more old timers, were holding down the fort! News bulletin was a delight to listen to without all the ‘modulations’ and ’embellishments’! These days, broadcasters are really wack! So many phonies, even to pronounce the names of some Nigerians sef na war! Then you’d begin to hear words like ‘staffs’ and other ridiculosities! Those broadcasters of old must be cringing at the rot of it all! Its just really ‘style-cramping’! Yuck!

  15. I have just been laughing here…. *still laughing*

  16. Reminds me of the “poo inaneh” woman…
    This is a masterpiece written by Vivian, a work of art. Delivering sound logical points with a healthy dose of humor..
    I agree with all the points she raised

  17. This blend of sense and hilarity is so bam! Ionno wurr tu saey.

    I used to think Chinese is the most difficult language to speak, one you can’t say well if you don’t have poundo or akpu settled in your belly. With the trending melange of british and american accents… southern drawl, eastern drag or northern clip, chinese is just a little stunt.

    What’s communication when we’re not properly heard? May the Lord bless the reading of this piece, and give us the strength to handle the noisemakers. F*ckn nonsense!

    Amen.

  18. Ze French accent Iz my most prrreferred though. Sexy

  19. But why on earth would I want to imitate or adopt a British/American accent. The Irish/Scottish are more fun. What I wish for though, is to either sound like a French, German or Russian dude when speaking English. Now zats ze best non?

    Lovely article!

  20. Bet Fiffian why wil u rite dis kin of tin. My asent is nat de biznez of anybady! My dear blodas and sistas dear is nuttin wrang if you use fake aksintssss……continuity is d major problem.
    Wuche u c d way l switched btwn more dn one accent……dts d average forming Nigerian speaking. Oh and then dre r the yelz-ers and yelks-ers. Keep d accent up jare…..proudly ‘Nigerians?’

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