|ONYINYE'S MIRROR ON LIFE|
|Onyinye Oyedele||Monday, March 27, 2006|
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here is no doubt that one of the "evidence" of your sojourning abroad is how you speak. The way you pronounce some words and twist your mouth when speaking your phonetics has a way of captivating people who are in awe of those who have lived abroad! In one way or another your pronunciations will be affected. One of the first things I learnt in integrated science in secondary school is that there are some factors that affect growth; such as your environment. If you have a set of twins separated at birth and one is sent to the United States while the other is left in Nigeria, there is no doubt that if they unite after many years that they will sound and look different. The way they see things will be different too. If they decide to swap places they will also adapt in different ways. The twin who had lived in Nigeria will not automatically start speaking "Americana". So many of us out here battle everyday with our accents in our struggle to blend.
The "switching" approach is still one of the ideal ways of handling this accent issue. Just switch from your Nigerian to British, American or Canadian accent as the situation requires and be calm. Call it faking…em, I will say it is a "blending skill". Well, in my house I will speak what I like and demonstrate, but because outside I am in a different cultural setting and I want to be understood, I will try to blend. It is an adjustment we have to make sometimes but I won't give myself unnecessary headache because I want to sound like an American, British or a Canadian. If along the way my Nigerian accent shows up……it will be business as usual and no apologies! If you go to a Chinese restaurant, do you understand all that they are saying? They speak English but you can still hear their accent and that will not stop you from placing your order. If you hear some other ethnic accents, you will cherish your own.
Sometimes children who were born, or have lived out here for a long time tease their parents about their Nigerian accents. You will hear one little boy speaking polished English and he will be telling his mum that her English is not correct! Ah children! What a joy to just watch them grow. Sometimes, you even worry about the accent they will pick up ; your naija accent or oyinbo accent? Above all, let them know how to express themselves and enjoy the process of learning and growing up. Kids out here sometimes know too much for their small heads! We might need to also be abreast of things so that we can keep them on track and understand what they are doing.
If you are a leader, the most important thing is for your followers to understand what you are saying. Whatever language you choose to convey your information, the key is coming down to the level where they can hear you. Use the terms that the people understand. Sometimes when Presidents are being interviewed on national TV, if they are from a French or Spanish speaking country, they speak through an interpreter. That is because they are not representing themselves but a nation and their people. If you are a leader of a company, church, organization or group with a diverse cultural membership, you indeed have a big challenge in your hands. You can not completely remove who you are from how you present yourself but you might need to make an effort to help everyone to blend and feel that they belong. They all have their individual culture and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it because this is what they have known all their lives. They can not come over here and forget. But we should accommodate each other and appreciate other cultures as long as it values human life and sees everyone as equal.
We have also adopted some cultures that we have seen out here. How many of us knew anything about "Thanksgiving day" celebrations back home. Even your dressing is not completely African. You have blended in one way or the other. That is what globalization has done. As long as migration from one nation to another continues, we will keep seeing different ethnic groups with various accents. But will we judge them by the sound of their accent or by what they can offer to improve the community? It is a constant challenge not just for lecturers trying to understand their students point of view but also for big multinationals trying to live up to their claim of being equal opportunity employers! Recent riots in some parts of the world have been on the lack of proper integration and understanding of cultures. People can not be seen as cheap labour assets or immigration cash! They want to be recognized for their ethnic differences and accepted as part of the society. They want to have good jobs and feel that they are not just statistics.
Above all, I am happy that there is one person that I do not have to worry when I am speaking …………God. He understands all accents. Sometimes, if all you can do is cry in different voice pitches, He needs no interpreter to understand you. I guess we should spend more time talking to Him then!
|Some "Nigerian" terms||Blending|
|Parlour||Living room/sitting room|
|Waterproof/nylon bag||Carrier/paper bag|
|Errh||Pardon/say that again please|
|Siiiiiii||Hello, Excuse me|
|Exercise book||Notebooks/writing pads|
Etc………Our Nigerian terms are fine in our environment, but it sounds strange to them out here.