Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Accent v. No Accent

I wrote this post in 2011 and I decided to reprint it as an academic exercise. I am desirous of getting people's opinions on the subject matter. Enjoy and comment.

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.

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.

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. 'Yelz'. I don't have a huge problem with accents really. What i have a problem with is the ability to speak passable English, fini. If the language of instruction in Nigeria has been English and for twenty something years, you still can't speak passably, then there's a problem. I also have a habit of picking out errors. You would think i'm perfect ba? I'm kuku not. I just can't "un-hear" errors, particularly constant ones.

    So if you say i should give a certain sombory (who sent me this: Hello. i try to calling you but your line was not reachable....wish a spendid week ahead of you) a chance. I haff hear o. I wee consider it. *now opening my mind all the way up my mouth*

  2. lol I had to pause to come comment. As far as the FURST (first) man in my life which is my daddy does not have any edo accent and my mum who studied english does not have that indigenous plix why would I date or bring that sort of man to see my people ? lol abeg oo . talking to that kind will even make me laugh..
    let me go finish the post lol

  3. okay. I think it depends on the guy I'm dealing with. If he is well educated and all those good stuff but he has that H factor..calling house "ouse" or hot "ot". Il tease him from time to time hopefully he bcomes aware of it and tries. I won't let a good man slip away just because of that H factor. Yes I will get teased by my family and friends but that iz their bizness.
    BUT if he clearly is not educated and has that factor and cannot speak english and just go about shelling around HIAN! Furst of all we won't even be an item because it wont go there at all. Yelz he may have a range and oda things to make me a badt girl but I will have to say no. what sort of embarrassment is that ?
    i dont know if you use instagram but there are lots of fine naija girls there and even girl will start to trip. Instagram decided to add videos and some of these bush fine girls decided to open mouth ERROR! either is yoruba accent or ibo accent some of my guy friend got turned off just by hearing them speak! I mean what is that!!
    And all this fone that some of these "western" boys and girls cant even use. nor be like that! as long as you speak good english and you have a very good diction, that should be fine.

  4. LMAOO...Where do I even start from?! I am not saying that go and buy creole accent or british, but like Toin said, you should be able to speak it passably and enunciate your words "correctly", that is all I ask! Is that too much?
    That said, some accents are more manageable than others.

  5. Hmmm.. I used to mind a LOT about a guy's accent until I moved to the UK and everyone had an accent! The Welsh accent, the Geordie accent, even the Cockney accent! I was like so why are we kiling ourselves in Nigeria that someone who comes from a particular place 'naturally' speaks like he is from that place??
    Cheryl Cole has not died because she has a very strong accent, same with all the Canadian celebs and like you righty pointed out French people!
    I admit, it will be tres [:-)] difficult, however if it is weighed against a great personality, mehn *cough cough* age has wisened me up... Like Apostle Paul said.. When I was a child, I acted like a child, now that I am older, I put away childish things lol..
    In essesnce, I have come to realise that sexy accent does not provide emotional security nor food on the table. On the flip side, thick ethnic accent does not prevent a healthy heart, emotional security and love.. But nna mehn, odikwa difficult but very possible! :-D

  6. I went to QC and I would not attend a reunion by QC gals cos dey wanna compare notes. I certainly do not want to. I mean I saw a lot of them when I was in Lag and saying hello was very difficult for a lot of them. So I learnt fast to save my hellos for people that matter.
    As much as I like a guy who speaks impeccable English, I would proudly introduce a wonderful man who has an accent to any of my friends. If I accepted him, they would need to. And if they don't, Shift+Delete. Next!!!!!

  7. Accents and shelling are deal breakers. End of story.


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