Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Accent v No Accent

Last month, I was out with a few friends and we got talking about dating men with accents. We are not talking about your European/Latina accents here, but our own abinibi ie indigenous accents. My take on the issue was that I didn't think I could date a guy that spoke heavily accented English. The girls said they didn't think it was a big deal. That got me thinking. I had to seriously consider if I was ruling out good men for flimsy reasons. Is the way a person speaks really a serious impediment to dating them?

Let's set the scenario:
You are meant to be meeting up with your QC girls for a long awaited reunion(for the record, I didn't go to QC but we all know say QC girls pose die! And I can see this being more plausible as an issue that a QC girl will find tres shocking and distressing. Having said that, I love my QC friends dearly. Shout out to y'all)so you haven't seen your girls since graduation and you're stranded and can't get to the place. Your new boyfriend Danladi/Emeka/Bayo offers to drop you off at the reunion venue. You get there and your girls rush out to greet you. Amid the hugs, Danladi/Emeka/Bayo clears his throat in a manner that indicates he wants to be introduced.

You: Oh, this is Danladi
Danladi: hi. It is a fleasure to meeth you. She has been talking about you por a long time.
You: oh this is Emeka
Emeka: pleaYure. How ya school? How ya work?
You: oh this is Bayo
Emeka: pele. Ow hare you? Ow his heverytin.

Would you mind?

Is a Nigerian accent a deal breaker? Let's say Danladi, Emeka or Bayo was the sweetest guy you ever met. Will just that one thing stand against him?

The girls I was hanging out with N and U, were of the opinion that we, as a people,are not proud of ourselves and that's why we feel ashamed. And that girls like me who say they can't date an 'accented' guy, are just forming. After all, English is not our first language. And that if it was a guy with a French accent, we would be all over him like a rash, complimenting him on his sexy accent. Whichever side of the fence you're on, you have to admit that "ca va Cherie, I jest vant to run my 'and through your 'air, n'est pas?" is VERY sexy. I'm just saying.

Now, I'm nothing, if not honest with myself. And having pondered on what was said, I decided that I agreed with the girls BUT to an extent. I think vanity plays a huge part in our not wanting to be associated with indigenous intonations. Everyone wants to be seen as being well spoken. This aids greatly in how we are perceived. An example of society's perception can be seen in the Jenifa movie which showcased a girl that was sure of herself but was put down by people because of her 'bush' intonation and mannerisms. Perception matters to us Nigerians greatly. On the spoken word front, the desire to be seen as a 'posh' person is so bad that we see examples of people who go the UK for summer for 2 weeks and resume life in Naija with 'forne' toh badt! Or people whose relatives travel and they are the ones speaking the forne on their behalf. We are a strange people sha; ignoring local dialects to speak through our noses all in the bid to attain one kind fake status. Then in the end, forward, you can't go, backwards, you can't come: you can't blast your native language and serious forne sef, God no gree you. Moving on swiftly sha.....
We want to be seen as very well spoken and intelligent to garner some form of respect. We see people with indigenous accents as bush and unintelligent people. Which they really are not ( My father's favorite lecturer in Unilag had a strong Yoruba accent and finished with a first class from Imperial College.) and we want to distance ourselves from that.
The situation is slightly better now with the likes of 9ice and D'banj setting trends by being themselves and not being dubbed 'razz' by the self appointed Razzness Compasses. In my secondary school days and even till now, the biggest crimes you could ever commit were being razz and shelling. People that had accents were referred to as Yoruba Ninjas in my school. And that was a terrible thing. You were shunned like a leper if you were accused of either razzness or shelling. Seeing as we spend 6 of our formative years in that environment, that line of reasoning has become ingrained in us. We don't like Razzness and worse still, razz people.
This goes even beyond Nigerian accents. I know someone who refers to East Africans as "Those Africans" cos she can't stand their accents. WTF???
Language is essentially a tool for communication. If it has served this purpose and intent has been conveyed, should it matter that 'the' was pronounced 'de' or 'taxi' was pronounced 'tayzi' or that 'pant' was pronounced "paiynt"? I shouldn't think so.

Source: Google
However, here is where I disagree with the school of thought that a person's accent shouldn't matter. Like I said earlier, the way a person speaks contributes to the overall way in which they are perceived and received by others. Before I get to know what a person is like inside, their representative is the outside person. I have to be attracted to you first before i even get to know you. If I'm repelled by that outside packaging; that first impression, I don't know if it will be at all possible to muster the desire to see beyond that. I don't think I would ever be attracted to this: "bebe, infact, ya love is killing me. Give me ya digits. My container is arriving from overseas" I've met people that speak like that and as shallow as this sounds, I feel insulted when they talk to me. So the first hurdle remains uncrossed ie, I don't even like the sound of you so how do we communicate? I've seen instances where girls have been checking good looking guys out and talking about how good they look and how well turned out they are and making gooey eyes at the subject but when approached by the object of their desire and a hint of an accent is detected, you can literally hear the attraction running out of the room in high heels. I heard some girls talking about another girl's boyfriend with such menace and anger. Is he disfigured or deformed in some way or violent? Sez I. One of the girls looked at me and said in disgust "he can shell!!! With his Yoruba accent. She's trying o. It couldn't even be me. We will just not be going anywhere. He can't disgrace me". I was stunned. I mean, mine is an undercurrent, this is outright hate! Wow.

Source: Google
Final thots: I applaud girls who are classified as "cream" or "butty" who see a man for who he really is and don't care about any external factors, just so long as the man is good to them and they love him, which let's face it, are the most important things. I aspire to that level of human decency some day. My question is, are we ascribing importance to things that are not even remotely important in the grand scheme of things? Bad as e bad, elocution lessons can be purchased at the worse. If Baba Suwe can learn and speak English, then it is totally do-able. However, the problem here is not even the inability to speak the language,the problem is that the pronunciations don't come out right. Are women like me, who snob certain men because of this fact, missing out? I say, perhaps we are. Maybe we should open ourselves up to possibilities instead of shutting out an entire class of men. We women are often times the architects of our own misery. We may end up being pleasantly surprised if we branch out of our comfort zones or if not pleasantly surprised, the sojourn into the unknown might be....well....interesting. I'm going to give it a go and I have a candidate in mind ;)

P.S I would LOVE to hear your take on this topic: is it as much of an issue for you as it is for me? I know I'm not the only one out there. Have a lovely "rest of the " week.

1 comment:

  1. Errmm....the way a guy speaks matters a lot..i'm not a butty or cream oh but i cant be having a man who speaks with the 'H-factor' or a thick 'Nna-men' accent..lool


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