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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unhappy Independence Day, Nigeria

Nigeria marked her 52nd Independence Day on October 1st, which served as a reminder of the sheer courage, vim and determination that was shared by a nation to free itself from British rule. Fifty-two years ago, there was a sense of hope and togetherness; a feeling of maturity that pervaded the minds and hearts of Nigerians – a sense of pride that made them believe they were capable of handling the affairs of their country without external interference. They believed they could pave a better path for themselves than the British had to offer. Alas, those feelings were quickly extinguished by the 3 year civil war that raged on from 1967-1970 as a result of deep-seated tribal animosities.

Today, those feelings of hostility still exist and are skillfully whipped up by politicians as a means of achieving their devious ends. As a result of the constant political rhetoric and demagoguery, Nigeria remains broken and unable to move forward as a nation.  Furthermore, religious intolerance in the North, tribalism in the West and unchecked greed in the East have all conspired to ensure Nigeria remains stuck in a rut.

Nigeria is currently in a second phase of captivity - with Nigerian politicians at the helm in lieu of the British, which only makes things harder to comprehend. Why and how can you hate your country so much that you wouldn't want to see it progress? There's a general consensus that Nigeria was so much better in the 60s and 70s. Now crime rate is up, infrastructure and roads are an eyesore; the educational system is in tatters thanks to the military regime, healthcare is non-existent and power supply remains epileptic despite all the wealth generated from oil revenue. So I ask: What is it we are celebrating? Is it the internal rot Nigeria is perpetually undergoing?

Fifty-two years on and we’re still groping in the dark, while nations like Malaysia, who gained her independence three years before Nigeria, are miles and miles ahead. One might marvel at how far they've come in just fifty-five short years. For one, they've had visionary leaders who ensured that Malaysians embrace their multi-ethnic and multi-religious society for the good of the nation. Indeed, Nigeria ought to borrow a leaf or two from Malaysia. We should embrace and celebrate our differences rather than allow them to be used as political tools by unscrupulous politicians to tear us apart.

Nigeria seems to degenerate with each Independence Day, because there's a lack of political will among the political class to push for laws that would combat corruption and ameliorate the lives of ordinary Nigerians. With such nonchalance and complacency coming from lawmakers and politicians, isn't the time ripe for Nigerians to say they've had enough? Isn't it time we united and staged a Russian or French-styled revolution to overthrow the political class and set us on a course towards true balance and freedom? Only time will tell.