A well-meaning friend once suggested that I let my son watch more Cbeebies than Jimjam, which is his actual favorite Chanel on cable tv. Her reason: it would tailor his accent to a refined British accent and, not an American one which is common and not so cool. In my mind, I was like, pinch me. Well, next a family close to me decided their kids are going to the ultimate school because of the American accent they acquired over time from that school. In fact, the speed with which they obtained this accent was impeccable. Children from a typical village would be brought to this school by their rich benefactor relatives and, in a matter of a few months, they would be as American as it gets the accent, attitude, and all. This school like, a number of other American schools operated in Nigeria by the American curriculum and calendar. I actually noticed the accent stuck and, I promise you they weren’t faking it. Now I tried to convince this family about the amazing ratings I got on other schools, their facilities, and their performance, but my hard work and research were crushed under the “almighty American accent” I just couldn’t win. I mean their children’s school was good but how they couldn’t keep an open mind because, of how impressed they were by this accent took me back to my childhood and, I’ll share one more story with you.

Growing up, I wasn’t exactly the coolest kid but, I was book-smart. I, however, noticed that this type of smartness could take you far but, not as far as a cool talking, smooth-rolling, tiny voiced, American accent, or let’s just call it oyinbo accent for the sake of its western diversity. I noticed kids in churches, schools, or any social gathering who had that princess’s attitude and the talk especially would get this better regard and treatment. It was like Abeg I can’t come and dull myself O, so I quickly adapted and switched on my tv persona and boy did it work. It was like magic. Of course, I couldn’t try it with people who already knew me so, I would whip it out when I meet new people and the response coming back was such a positive re-enforcer. People would calm down and talk gently to you even if, you were being a brat. It was dramatic I must say. It’s almost as though I was a finalist in a #loseyouraccentchallenge. As a little child, I was beginning to learn my early lessons in manipulation, low self-esteem for our culture, and faking it to make it. Thank God my parent’s values back home couldn’t let my newfound behavior thrive so, over time I had to drop that and learn to value and grow other more realistic and praise-worthy things about myself like character, and virtue if not, I wonder where that behavior would have led me to.

Now I’ve got nothing against the accent of people from other cultures and, as a matter of fact, I encourage proper speech if you can but, why must a person be mocked for their naturally acquired accent? Why does our self-esteem seem to bow when there’s a clash between our original intonation and, the adopted English language, you know that feeling I’m talking about for those of us who haven’t quite mastered the art of suppressing the ancestors within? I for one am a lover of cultural diversity and just enjoy listening to people of other languages speak with their original accents. The diverse American accents such as the Texan or South American drawl, Mexicans, Chinese, Arabians, South Africans, that British Cockney lilt, and an Irish highland lilt, to Ugandans, Kenyans, in fact when you bring it back to Africa it’s so interesting due to our diversity.

In Nigeria, it becomes even more exciting as we are so diverse in our native languages offering the world about 7% of all languages. You’d have great fun imitating the accent of a Yoruba man, an Igbo man or, a Hausa man. The tiv accent actually gives me giggles such as their interchange of the letters L and R in words, for example, a ‘Rat’ would be pronounced as ‘Lat’, and “God bless you” would be “God Bress you” 😂😂😂. I LOVE accents. Even within our native languages and not just English, we find it amusing for instance when the typical Hausa man attempt to speak Igbo or Yoruba, that can blow your socks off, the same goes when the other tribes attempt to speak other languages It creates great humor and a kind of camaraderie among the people. I always wanted to be able to speak the Warri pidgin English called “Waffi”. It is to be the ultimate reflection of a people who are stubborn and dogged. The expressions and beauty of how much can be said with such few words and a little attitude are what really gets me about Warri and, I believe a lot of other African and Nigerian Languages.

My biggest problem with how we regard our accents is not the way the west treats them. I’ve been to places in the USA where people would walk up to me overhearing our jolly conversations and say “I love your accent” and I know indeed it must have been an accent because we weren’t even trying. This was “US” speaking. After much lamentation, I must admit there’s hope. During my preteens and teen years, the comedy industry in Nigeria experienced great growth with the likes of Ali Baba gcfr and Julius Agwu leading on. Then the next generation followed such as Basket mouth, Pastor Nicodemus Mbatsavtampo, I go die, I go save, and a host of many others and I began to appreciate our diversity so much more. They would crack jokes in accents that would just tear you up and it was for me like a burst of fruity and spicy flavors revealing how much beauty and diversity there is in our various tribes and tongues. In more recent times we’ve seen the birth of Jenifa the amazingly funny Yoruba Character of Funke Akindele who as much as I love accents and enjoy wouldn’t want my child speaking or writing like, she has an entire dictionary of words credited to her such as “Yels” for “Yes”, Okon the Calabari character, a brainchild of Ime Bishop Omoh, the actor-comedian, Falz the badt guy (Folarin Falana) who has added some allure and appeal to the Yoruba English (yorubanglish) speech. There’s a whole host of them.

Why then is there an increase in the stigma attached to our natural, mother tongue accents? Why isn’t it so celebrated and, why do we feel betrayed and ashamed when we are identified by our accents? Why do we feel superior when we speak as westerners do? Is there going to be no record of accents as native languages are going extinct? Meaning, for instance, some years from now, an Ngas child who can’t speak his native tongue will probably read an Ngas text with an English accent if he even can? Do we really have to communicate only in English sounding English language? I mean the American or oyinbo accented one? I hope with time we will, especially our younger ones, come to appreciate our natural tongue and accent and, will not feel as pressured to conform to this prevalent trend in order to feel like our English is adequate. Remember English might be our official language but it can never ever replace our mother tongues. Please share with us any such incidences you’ve had about your accent or tongue and how it has affected you.

For more reasons why you should safeguard your accent, check this post out https://shutupandgo.travel/stop-being-ashamed-of-your-accent/

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