Wednesday, October 26, 2005

THEY SAY MY ENGLISH SOUNDS LIKE SWAHILI

In the past 3 years that I've been hustling to get a placement on-air, I've been taking a lot of sucker punches over my accent. In fact, sucker punch is too soft a word to use. How about I've been knifed, axed and put through a garbage crusher over my accent. Honestly, I've had it with all these news directors and certain other people saying, "I hear a tinge of an accent." Well DUH!! I lived in Africa for 17 long years, Nigeria to be precise, so what else is expected. Perhaps I'm supposed to sound like I'm from California or something?

The most recent one that really really annoyed me was when a certain 'industry' someone who was supposed to be on my side and encouraging me told me to give up on the reporter dream and go for producing because he thinks that I don't sound like I have a good grasp of the English language. Hmh!?! Now you know I was livid upon hearing that but as much as I wanted to go ballistic, I had to hold my peace and ask for grace. Are you freaking kidding me? I DON'T HAVE A GOOD GRASP OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE? Do I sound like 'I don't have a good grasp of the English language?'. I probably have a higher vocabulary count that the person who told me that. How is someone who doesn't have a grasp of the English Language able to read the whole works of Shakespeare by junior high, get A's in English grammar, Literature and practically all my college essays, with the exception of the ones that I made 'intelligently' and 'independently' researched arguments, quite contrary to the professor's teachings (Yah!ITK--I too know). How is someone who doesn't have a good grasp of the English language able to read the adult versions of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Gulliver's Travels, Tom Sawyer, Jane Eyre and the rest. I am talking about the ones without pictures, that have italic footnotes at the bottom. How does someone who read about 7-8 Mills & Boons, Nancy Drews and Sweet Valley Highs per day, which when calculated is an average of 1 per hour, factoring in sleep, school and study time as well, has read the AP Stylebook four times, and is into the fifth read at section-H, not have a good grasp of the English language? Hmh!?! How does someone who knew Brighter Grammar Book 1, 2 & 3 cover- to- cover, not forgetting Macmillan with Edet, Simbi and Ali, Path-To-Success and was the 'Grammar-Queen', pun very well intended, correcting everybody's' English up and down, including that of my English teacher mother and professor father, not have a good grasp of the English language. Let me not even start telling you about the ORIGIN of the damn English language. I mean seriously, If you don't know anything about Brighter Grammar, you better not tell me I don't have a grasp of the English language? As in Google that!!

The sad part is in reluctantly taking their advice and trying to sound more American; the more I try to fake the funk, the more ridiculous I sound because I am not comfortable speaking that way. It's like this, every body has a speech music pattern and when you introduce a new pattern you sound like a broken record. It is unnatural and sometimes that's how I feel about this whole thing. Plus having an accent has not stopped the likes of Jeff Koinange, Christian Amanpour and all those other television people with foreign accents from getting to the top. So why am I getting such a hard time, it is not like I sound like I am speaking Swahili or even German at that. My accent is beautiful just like many others that sound different to the American ears. It's going to be my signature one of these days. People in this country just need to get over this phobia they have about all things foreign. The audience will not break into a riot if they see an African girl who sounds African reporting the local news. As long as I sound articulate, understandable and speak proper English, that equal opportunity employment thingy should also be extended to me.

Anyways, bitching about it is not going to get me anywhere, so guess what? I actually ordered accent reduction training CD's from Amazon. Two sets. They cost me about $50 and that s*** better be worth my hard earned cash. They want me to sound American? Fine. If that will pay the bills then so be it, they'll get American all right.

Henceforth, there shall me no more Nigerian movies for me, and if you know your accent is equally as jacked up as mine, Biko, Please, Jo n'tori Oloun, do not come and talk to me without trying to speak through your nose as well, because I will 'chin-your-paks.' I will only make limited exception with Church and Family. So all my other telephone-buddies, ya'll better get with the program and not try to mess up my flow. If I begin to sound funny at least you'll understand why. My own case is different because there is a purpose for it. This just reminds me of when I had to get rid of that tinge of British accent I had way back when, because everyone was asking me where I got that from. I thought about it and was like, Ok I've never been to London, my parents are not British and I don't know any Englishman so where the hell did I get the British accent from and why the hell do I sound that way in the first place. Television. It felt very unauthentic so I had to flip the script sharply, so now I just sound confused. As one guy put it, like a cross between a Jamaican accent and a very very bad British accent. You wanna know what I say to that? Piss off!!

Anyways here are the titles of the accent reduction kits I got in case anyone out there is going through the same thing as I am, would like to work or improve on your speech or even get your children to learn 'American' (like it's a language). I am sure there are others out there with the British accent and I bet those would be more fun to work with because I do prefer the British accent to the American accent; it has a melody to it. For those of you who want to sound Nigerian just go to the nearest African food store and pick up a copy of a 'Nollywood' production. You'll start sounding Nigerian by the time you get to the fifth VCD. Trust Me.

'Accent Reduction Made Easy' by Jane Wellborn, $19.95
'American Accent Training' by Ann Cook $39.95

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Eya pele. If they would only stop and try to listen. Why is it that I understand American English perfectly (ok, maybe not the one with Southern accents, but they add words together and we actually pronounce each word and syllable). Is it because of Television?

Anonymous said...

Adaure-
This is the funniest post ever. Please don't use the accent reduction now cos we need you to come correct like a proper Nija babe on saturday.
With or without ur accent, when ur times comes, no man on the surface of this earth can stop you. U never know , you might get a job that requires an accent.

Nneka's World said...

Adaure
LMAO! You no go kill me oh!
Dont mind them, they speak with an accent as well!
Why waste money for the accent reduction tell the person who told you that your accent sounds funny to teach you how to speak without an "accent"

uknaija said...

Never mind dem...onu kwuru njo ga-ekwu mma...keep representing

S.E. said...

I'm a black American (woman) and I enjoyed reading your blog. I came across your site accidentially while 'surfing' the net. I'm very happy to have taken a detour into your world.

I read a few of your blog entries all of them are very interesting. I would like to comment on this particular entry.
One of my very best girlfriends is African (Liberian). We have been the best of friends since high school. I have dated African and West Indian men in the past and I am married to the most wonderful Haitian-American man. I live in a world of beautiful accents. I wouldn't have it any other way.

'American'(as if it were a language ;)--stole that one from you!) is virtually unappealing to the ears of the listener.

I say stay true to yourself. When I heard about the accent reduction tapes I cringed. I can't believe there is such a thing on the market. My husband and I are both professionals. My husband is very successful. He accent didn't hinder him in this life. I have countless friends with accents and all are successful and remain true to themselves.

Good luck in the pagent. Good Luck in your career and I'm sure I'll see you on CNN someday. Never give up on your dream girl!

From one sister's heart to another!

Anonymous said...

Hey....I HAD to comment on this. I'm Nigerian too....heck, make that NAIJA! - I even spent 23 years in Naij...and have been here for only two. Like you said, TV is a bitch. Who knew I could/would sound this American? For some strange reason, I picked up the accent right away (perhaps the fact that I spoke excellent English in the first place made that easier...but whatever).

So I work in corporate America, and I suppose will be considered extremely successful by most standards. I won't deny that sounding like the people I work with makes my life (and theirs) much easier, cos there's no 'Huh?'s or 'Sorry?'s when I communicate with them. On the other hand, I have found that people are less stiff when they find out I am African as opposed to being African-AMERICAN. And yes, we all know there's a marked difference between those two. They automatically assume I have a stronger work ethic, am more reliable, less likely to be antagonistic etc. (About the reliability part, I don't get that, don't they know the stereotypes about Nigerians?)

And the questions behind all these ramblings is this: I am African and am bound and determined to be identifed as such, but its hard because I find it so much easier to lose my African accent at work.What to do?

PS...my boss' expression the day she heard me yakking away to my sister in Yoruba while I was at work? Classic! She was like "Oh, I didn't realise you spoke another language'? I told her - not only do I speak Yoruba, I tend to think in it, as well. Which led to a discussion about my being Nigerian and how she would never have guessed etc. (And I had been working with her for 3 months at this point)

Anonymous said...

Adaure. I feel you. I can perfectly relate you. Pele. Don't worry, it will all be part of the story of your way to the top. Stay focused. Do what you have to do to get what you want. The annoying part though is you definitely speak better English than all of those people. BASTARDS!!!

Anonymous said...

whats up adaure. congratualtions on ur efforts with regards to the ms africa pagent. u need to make a little correction though. my name is "ugo" not "chima". some people called me to tell me about ur site so i checked it out. i am flattered to be on ur page but please try and correct my name my dear. u have a great day and god bless.

Adaure said...

Oopsy!!! Ma bad 'Ugo'...just couldn't remember your name so I decided to christian you with another name...sorry :)

Jonathan Mthombeni Jr. said...

Adaure,

you are an AMAZING writer. Smart, concise yet thorough, and best of all FUNNY without sounding like you're trying. I just know you'll acheive your dream, don't give up. Forgive me but I think it's hilarious about your accent reduction training courses. I never knew those existed, hee hee. I have never met a Nigerian, from Nigeria, who didn't have an accent though so...good luck my sister!! I honestly believe though that eventually they will beg for you to grace them with your talents regardless of accent. Just a hunch.
Wish I could've been at the pagent but I'm enjoying the discourse and the pictures. Keep it coming.

-Jonathan

Anonymous said...

as in you took it way back to Brighter Grammar. Pele dear. I feel you o.

When I was in Naij, I didn't have a strong accent and then when I moved to the US, I had people (African and American) questioning the fact I grew up in Naija. I mean my Naija friend who moved here at the age of eight has a stronger accent than I do.

In any case, my frist year here - one daft boy asked my cousin , who was standing next to me, if I spoke English. I was so offended!!! Especially since his grammar and vocubulary were not impressive at all. The gall!!!

The point is that you clearly have a very good grasp of the language. Unfortunately many do not realise that the countries colonised by the British take learning the English language very seriously. Don't you love it when people say "Oh you're Nigerian? You speak English so well!"

*blank stare*

Even though it might feel like denying a part of yourself, you do what you need to do to get to the top. Ignore the sill comments - chalk it up to ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Accent reduction??!! Whassat? Some people are so lazy, unless you speak exactly like them they can't be bothered to listen to what you're saying. People like that need to get a passport.
Anyway nwanne m, do what you gotta do to get your foot in the door, but like you said... that beautiful accent is gonna be your trademark when you get to level of Christiane dem. Keep on rocking my dear, this was a nice post. BTW, ou are gifted o, okwa i ma?

Bernice said...

Adaure, i feel you jare! Some pple take this whole accent thing very seriously. But i understand y you decided to use the accent reduction. I probably would have done the same if I am in your shoes. In my perspective I 'll NOT use the accent reduction crap if I dont have to...I am who I am. My accent is part of what defines me as a person...a beautiful nubian princess from Ikorodu land. To me, my accent is my trademark that often reminds me of my root and where I came from..As long as my boss/coworkers understand me perfectly and I am not being denied of my rights simply becos of my accent..trust me.. We are good! I have heard some "wanna be" pple makes silly remarks like they cannot date guys with African accent...it annoys/turns them off. Adaure can you imagine...if their parent open up their mouth and speak (chei) you 'll be disappotinted how they are being in denial of where they came from. As long as pple are grammatically correct and well articulated...faking to be who you not is ridiculous! Adaure I admire your site and keep being who you are gurl! One love.

Bimbo.