When I wrote my post about the initial challenges I faced with the british accent, what I did not anticipate was that people would be able to relate to my experiences and be willing to share their experiences with me. Listening to these challenges, reminded me of the importance of sharing your story.
This goal of this blog post is to shine a spotlight on communication issues from other people's perspectives (in my own little way). A lesson I have learnt is that challenges are universal. Being open about them with trusted individuals and believing in YOUR strength to overcome them is incredibly important. The actions you take to overcome them do not necessarily have to be 'big' actions, but the quiet small actions you take daily make a huge difference. Not being strong for yourself can have a negative impact on yourself, career, dreams and future ambitions in the long run (trust me I know) and I believe everyone deserves their best self.
I will share a few individual's stories. Their names have been changed for their privacy. I have also paraphrased their contributions for easier reading.
Mr. M - late 30s
In my case, because I'm a lot more mature, I doubt if I can switch to Canadian accent at all or with ease. It takes some of us a lot to switch when it comes to accents. Especially when we come from a background, where it has worked for us for a long time. I was lucky, I transferred my services from Nigeria to Canada within my organization at a fair level. Otherwise I would have had a really hard time. Some of my Canadian colleagues were hell-bent on making my accent an issue and believed I wouldn't meet set targets. I had to put in extra care and effort at work to consistently exceed expectations, ignoring the negative criticism, prove my colleagues wrong and to keep their mouth permanently shut.
You go Oga M! That's how you show them!.
AYL - Early 30s
In my situation, I stuttered when I was much younger. I did not realize how badly this would unconsciously affect some of the decisions I would make in my career and extracurricular activities. Due to the fact that I stuttered, I ended up avoiding situations where I would have to pronounce certain words or communicate certain words with people because they had specific letters i struggled with. Thereby negating any chances of positive contributions I could have made in that context. There were several situations, at school, where I knew the answers to questions asked but because I didn't want to speak / stutter (the teachers were very impatient and sometimes unkind) I did not volunteer answers. In the end the teachers punished me for not answering questions. I overcame it with little actions such as taking the time to speak slowly, taking my time to think before I talk, praying about it and most importantly, not being ashamed of it.
Shame.. This is an aspect a lot of people don't talk about. There's always that element of shame because we cannot communicate the way we would like to. I understand it. Totally. I have felt it. But in an ideal world, we should NOT be ashamed, especially if we just need a little more care, empathy and patience than others. I also often wonder about teachers, especially Nigerian ones, if they think about the impact of their actions. It is really important that empathy and patience is a character trait across board. I mean look at "AYL" it was a case of damned if you answer questions, damned if you don't. One cannot win and it does such damage to one's self esteem.
Gio - Mid 30s
Thank you for sharing your story. Reading your stories lifted my spirit and I was really encouraged. I am also partially deaf in my left ear, right from childhood but never felt confident enough to share. I did not realize that this was something that abnormal until my early teens. Even then, it was not something I allowed to affect me. I got on with it, and I am living just fine.
Wow, I have to say this really surprised me. I know "Gio". I never would have guessed. He got excellent grades at university! The above GIF really just captures how I felt when he shared his story with me. Well done G you deserve all the accolades!
Interestingly, you also have people who struggled when they moved back to Nigeria from other countries, due to their foreign accents and vocabulary. I bet this is something that a lot of people would NOT have thought was an issue, as people with "foreign accents" in Nigeria are always viewed more favorably than native Nigerian english speakers.
Klove - Early 30s
I did my primary (Elementary) school in London and moved to Lagos for secondary school. After the move back to Lagos, certain things became very apparent, for example, I’d ask for a hole puncher (perforator) and be met with a confused look. Ask for a rubber (eraser) and be confronted with a blank stare. What was most frustrating, was going to Falomo Market one evening, and asking if they had any crochet pins (knitting pins) only for the shop attendant to tell me such things didn’t exist. Upon inspection of her shop, I, very unsurprisingly, found one sitting on one of her shelves...
Sis, are you absolutely sure they do not exist?
From then on, I became increasingly conscious of what Nigerians called different items to avoid unnecessarily extended conversations.
Then the The British Accent! My goodness. When I was about 10 (and lived in the UK), whether or not I had a British/Nigerian accent was the least of my worries. My friends then, didn’t care about how I sounded. It was all about what we had in common. When I moved back to Lagos, my Aunt told me I had a British accent. To say the least, I was dismayed because I thought I sounded just like her. When I started my A-Levels in the UK, I noticed I made a lot of effort to sound like the Brits. I’d watch my words, I was a lot more conscious of my pronunciations.
Today, I’m 100% proud of my accent whatever it is, however it sounds. If anyone doesn’t understand, I believe the onus is on them to make the effort. The only thing I consciously do, is try and pronounce things properly. I don’t always understand what the Brits/Americans (or any other culture/nationality for that matter) so I take the time to listen and I pay attention. I feel like it’s a thing of respecting cultures, people and differences. Respect begets respect
A word! "KLove" said it all. I absolutely love that. Respect begets Respect.
An important thing with communication is not the accent that gets you heard. This is something I really need people to understand. It's the diction and the clarity of speech. Chimamanda and Wole Soyinka have very clear Nigerian accents with fantastic diction and vocabularies. I am very well aware that some individuals think having an accent gets you favoured and makes you look "cool". Please I am here to beg you (I take God beg you). Faking it is not necessary, especially if it doesn't come naturally.
I am quite happy about the domino effect of this blog. I'm glad it's sparking conversations, teaching others and encouraging people to ask questions. I have been asked some interesting questions in the last couple of weeks and I will be answering them in my next post. If you haven't already got your questions in, feel free send me a message via contact form!