Monday, October 22, 2012

What's With the Fake Accents?!

What's with the fake accents?! I'm not sure, but I have never really understood people who changed theirs to mimic British or American accents.  I'm of the opinion that if one spoke slowly and didn't use regional slang, anyone would understand the message. I'm also of the opinion that people who switch their accents when engaging in conversations with foreigners, especially Americans and Brits, are somewhat insecure and suffering from a bout of inferiority complex.

I'm proud of my Nigerian accent, although I've been told by several people (including Nigerians) that I don't sound Nigerian which, by the way, is just another parlance for - "I can't detect any tribal intonation when you speak." Well, that's because I grew up in a city, watched cable TV most of the time and attended good schools. Plus I learned how to speak English before Igbo, so there's no way my English is going to have an Igbo twang to it. Regardless, I have a Nigerian accent. I just happen to have a 'flat' Nigerian accent due to the reasons previously mentioned.

Now back to the pressing issue at hand: Fake accents, one of my pet peeves.

Question: Have you ever partaken in a conversation where the speaker continually punished themselves by switching from a strong, regional accent to a painfully mangled imitation of an American accent? I have, and boy was it painful to listen to. I don't know how people manage to keep up the act because I sure can't and find the whole process enervating.

Also, there are some people in their late teens or 20s who emigrate to the States or England and switch accents overnight, so when next you speak to them on the phone it's like you're speaking to an entirely different person! What gives? People, after a certain age, there's no way your accent's going to change - not in a million years and certainly not after a year, so accept it and move on!

You might wonder why I am griping about fake accents. Well, the answer is simple. I think people change things about themselves to improve specific areas in their lives they're not particularly pleased with or people frown upon. So my guess regarding people who alter their accents is that they feel theirs is substandard vis a vis an American or British accent, which I think is a totally misguided notion.

Another hunch of mine is that they think they'd sound educated and well-travelled, if they spoke in an American or British accent, which again is a misguided idea. I for one delight in hearing the English language spoken with different accents, and enjoy deducing in my head where the speaker is from by listening to the way words are pronounced.

An accent is part of one's identity, and so trying to alter it is like saying to oneself one isn't proud of who one is. The world wouldn't be much fun if everyone sounded like me, or the Queen of England, or Obama. That would be so tripe!

Here's my two cents about accents: As long as people understand what you're trying to communicate, there's no need to alter your accent. If you speak slowly and clearly when talking to a foreigner, I guarantee your message won't be lost in translation. If in doubt, here's a little example for you to ponder: Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN, spoke impeccable English with a Ghanaian accent, and he certainly didn't have any problems communicating his message to world leaders; neither did they have any trouble understanding him.

So there you have it, be yourself and quit acting.