Written By: Chioma Onyewuchi
Tell me your name and I can probably guess where you are from. Open your mouth and I am almost certainly able to tell you where you’re from, or at least guess what region it is. Names and accents are often great indicators of a person’s country of origin or upbringing. It’s part of what makes our world so rich and diverse.
In most countries, accents are considered sexy. Women swoon over men with “exotic” accents: British, Italian and French accents send many African and non-African women over the moon. These accents, in the ears of a foreigner, can make the listener perceive the speaker as smart, charming, or flirty. As a result, these foreigners wear their exotic accents proudly, savoring the attention and their uniqueness.
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Unfortunately, it seems that many Africans do not appreciate this unique aspect of themselves. Several are quick to dismiss others with indigenous accents as “bush” and would rather have their fellow Africans assimilate. Just for the record, I am no advocate for incorrect English and choppy cadence in speech, neither am I oblivious to the fact that it is difficult to retain an accent in all its originality after living in a foreign place for a period of time. However, what I speak of is the need for us to realize that our accents are unique because they identify us. A Ghanaian has a Ghanaian accent because, well, she’s Ghanaian just like an Italian has an Italian accent because he’s, that’s right, Italian. Our accents are beautiful.
It’s actually quite eye-opening that our accents seem to be better appreciated by our non-African counterparts than they are by us. I’ve heard people compliment well-spoken people of African origin who have retained vestiges of their country’s accents by calling them distinguished, proper and more articulate than others.
What I’m trying to say, in my roundabout way I guess, is that we should never consider ourselves inferior. Our accents are part of our unique beauty and rich heritage and we should learn to celebrate that. Anything else would be nothing short of disappointing.