After staying in one of the Western Nigerian states for almost two decades, I was very excited to go to school in the South. Settling down was easy and in a matter of months, I was ready to commence the journey that would, in the end, pay off with a first degree in biochemistry.
I remember the first few months of my arrival, I would go all the way down on my knees to greet anyone older than me (I still do), and I added ‘aunty’, ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ before the name of anyone who was as much as a day older than me.
However, one of my major challenges was my Yoruba accent. For a former senior prefect and a representative of my secondary school in literary affairs, I could only imagine how I sounded like those times I represented my school in national debates!
I had what’s popularly called the ‘H’ factor… Making such sentences as “Ha we avin heggs this morin?” (Are we having eggs this morning?) and ending my sentences with ‘jare’ or ‘joor’ and a question such as “did you go there?” would be “you went there abi?”
It took lots of practice to get rid of the ‘H factor’ and a whole lot of practice to remove the accent. Its now hard to guess which Nigerian tribe I belong to by just listening to me (yippee!).
You know when Nigerians leave motherland for oyibo (foreign) land, especially the land of the Britons and they come home after one year with a different accent? That’s how my friends came home and started pronouncing ‘water’ as ‘wo-ah’ and ‘achieve’ as ‘oh-tchiv’, saying ‘hi’ instead of ‘good morning’, ‘When are you back?’ instead of ‘when will you be back?’, ending every statement with ‘yeah’ (making a statement sound like a question), calling everyone ‘darling’ and talking like they were singing. Of course, their accents never matched Adele’s but it was interesting to hear them speak.
I’ve always been a lover of British English and am now practicing how to speak it even though I’ve never stepped foot in the UK! Since I have dropped the typical Yoruba accent, it is just right to learn the British way of speaking English abi? So should you try to make conversation with me and I do my own very terrible version of British English, please don’t laugh at me. I will be speaking po-fect in only jes a ma-ah of toime.