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Pronouncements On Accents

I was watching the TED talk given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “The danger of a single story”. This video has been watched 8,225,847 times on TED’s website. I am very proud of Chimamanda. Hopefully, Nigeria is proud of their daughter too.

Furthermore, I have listened to several of her interviews. I have also watched her TEDx Talk  “We should all be feminists”. It marvels  me that she still speaks in an Ibo accent. Chimamanda, why haven’t you adopted a British or American accent?

I ask her this question because Nigerians have a habit of  trying to adopt British or American accents. This includes Nigerians that have never left the shores of Nigeria. Please do not ask me what they sound like.

Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Yesterday, home alone, I was enjoying listening to Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. The presenter of the show started struggling with pronouncing the name of her next guest, Yomi Adegoke (Yoruba name). Adegoke was in the studio defending “black butts”. She wrote an article called, “Why does a black butt only look good in white skin?”

In my typical Yoruba mind and head, I concluded that Yomi Adegoke was a fake. “She can’t be a Nigerian; she does not sound like one!” As my brain buzzed away, I swiftly Googled her name and voilà, she “looked Nigerian”. Immediately, I sent her a tweet to congratulate her. She replied.

Recently, I  made an appointment with Virgin Media. One of their engineers was to visit my home. Ten minutes before the arrival of the engineer, he called my mobile phone. As soon as he spoke during this short call, I knew he was my townsman. He did not try to disguise it. He was proud of it.This was later confirmed when he arrived for the appointment. He is from Ijebu-ode. He, retaining his Nigerian accent made me proud.

Once upon a time, I tried disguising my Yoruba accent. I tried to sound like the Queen of England. It was dreadful. It was a mess. It made people ask me to repeat what I had just said. After a few “Can you repeat that again?”, I knew what to do. I did it immediately.

Hearing Chimamanda speak in her beautiful accent has  saved and encouraged me to flaunt my “Nigerianess”. This includes speaking the way I feel most comfortable. Sometimes, my daughters sound like me, sometimes like their English father. I hope the “Accent Brigade” does not stop them from speaking the way they feel most comfortable.

As for me and my daughters, we shall keep our “Nigerianess”. And accents.

This entry was posted in: Culture


At 23, I left Nigeria where I was born and moved to England.In England, I got my Law degree and married John. I like things to be tidy and organised but as a working mum with young daughters, that is hard to achieve. But thanks to John, I have coped so far. If you'd to know more, it's all on my about page.

1 Comment

  1. Humn… on Nigerian accents, this is an interesting one.

    I have heard both of Ms Adichie’s talks you mentioned and they were excellent. I would not have expected her to speak any differently given she left Nigeria for the US as an adult, at that age, one has already established the Nigerian accent.

    I heard some super rich Nigerians have teachers they pay in £,000s yearly to teach their children their preferred English accent be it North American or British, this is to prepare them for the boarding school that in the US or UK from 13 o 14 years old – these guys will speak with natural accents.

    And the annoying type – In the course of 2 minutes conversation, they would go from Irish to British to Scottish to American accents. I have met a grown man like this who was supposed to be a manager born and bred in Yorubaland and having trouble deciding which accent he should go with – at the end of the meeting all I could remember was the switches between accents, nothing about the product – sad really.


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