Wanna, Ganna, Havta, Shoulda

8 Dec

Accents intrigue me. I like to listen to people sometimes and wonder just how they came about their accents and how they lose it when they relocate. After living in Georgia for a year and a half now, I still find the southern accent really really cute. I love to listen to hear my boss’s southern catch phrases like, “are you pitchin’ a fit in mah doorway?” or “ah just gat off dah phone with mah warf.” It cracks me up all the time. Southerners are just darn cute with their manners and sometimes sickly sweet hospitality, but I digress.

How do accents come about? When do they start? How do they change? Why do we lose our accents? And for you Nigerians or Africans, why do those of us that lose our accents made fun of? I am sure some of you have heard the snide comments from people back home because they assume you are trying too hard to be nasal and phonetically annoying. I have always assumed my accent never changed by much until I listened to myself on Vera’s radio show. I was shocked! It did not sound like me at all. I was thinking, who is this pretend aje butter talking like someone who has hot yam in her mouth? But that was me! When did all this happen? How did I start talking like that? Do you unconsciously start to imitate those around us so much that the brain switches into another mode and changes your speech pattern? If I move to England will I start speaking differently?

For people who speak other languages, I know that basically adapting your speech pattern to another language is what makes an accent but what of those that don’t speak a second language (besides English)  – like some Australians, European-Americans, the British?  How did their ‘accents’ come about.

This is a very interesting topic that I would love to explore … (*ahem* Vera – you can steal this idea for a show if you want. You know I like to share… he he he..)

In the mean time, I would love to hear your comments. Have you lost your Nigerian/[insert ethnicity here] accent and if you have what has been your experience?


28 Responses to “Wanna, Ganna, Havta, Shoulda”

  1. justjoxy December 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    My accent is a hybrid. When I’m in the States, I get asked ‘Are you from England?’ When I’m talking to my fellow naijas, I sound just like them i.e naija accent. Except of course if I’m trying to front. If I am talking to my oyinbo friends, I sound like them (I think). If I’m really comfortable with them though, I lapse into my naija accent with one or two Yoruba words thrown in for good measure.

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

      Ooooh… I love that word – hybrid.

  2. Lady X December 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    It depends o! Some people say I have an English accent and some say American. I think my accent is just there! But hmm my CONC Naija accent comes out well when I’m insulting someone(in Hausa or broken)

    And I love typing with all the Naija slangs tho I might sound terrible saying them 🙂

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

      Just like JustJoxy. How come English and American accents are the most commonly attributed accents to Nigerians?

      • Lady X December 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

        Maybe because we’re either taught English or American pronunciation in School so most people have that sort of accent rather than a French one or say a Spanish one? LOL

  3. yinkuslolo December 8, 2009 at 6:59 pm #


    that’s my post on accents, from my pov.

    hope it’s helpful

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm #


  4. taynement December 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    Oooh I can speak on this. Some say I have but then again, even when I was in Nigeria, I was told I talk funny. But coming to america, in high school. I had one friend who took it upon herself to correct my every statement. eg I would say, “Is it compulsory to do this?” she would say, ” first of taynement, we say necessary as in ne-ce-serry”. You have to separate it, taynement”. Seeing as I was petrified in my ghetto high school, I always made sure to say it the “right way” and I guess it stuck. Also sometimes, I think how young you were when you got to Yankee and more of the people you hang out with adds to it.

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

      LOL! Actually your friend prolly meant to say ‘mandatory’
      This reminds me of a time I pronounced a word as Me-Ta- Bo-Li-Zim instead of ‘metablism’
      Chei man pikin don suffer for merika.

  5. Nice Anon December 9, 2009 at 12:48 am #

    Oh it just happens. changes and we have no idea that it has.

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

      Tell me about it. I really don’t want to lose my naija accent. It’s unique.

  6. BBB December 9, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    funny enough
    i’d like to have an irish accent
    it’d be so cool

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

      Everthing Irish is cute.

  7. joicee December 9, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    I think your accent can change not completely but to an extent..

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm #


  8. outofhand December 9, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    According to my folks back home I have always talked “funny”, I enunciated errything and then I came to the US for college. My accent does this switch thing that I can’t control, when I talk to Americans…the westerners (sometimes east coast) accent comes out, when I talk to my fellow Africans, my naija accent is in full effect (people still say I don’t sound naija and it upsets me…what in the name of deep voices is a Naija accent, we are too diverse to pin one kind of accent on the whole nation). Anywho, accents are interesting. It is a bit annoying to hear someone trying to twirl their tongue to sound “American” (see certain Naija movies) and it turns out really bad.

    • lucidlilith December 9, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

      lol @ naija movies. I always cringe when I see that happening.

  9. Ms. Sula December 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    Accents are just copies of speech patterns. Stay long enough in a certain area and you are bound to imitate/copy the speech patterns. It’s unconscious.

    Areas like Scotland, Britain, Ireland etc… have speech patterns because of the relatively “enclosed” area all of them lived in. Children reproduce their parents speech patterns because this is who they learn the language from.

    I thought I had a distinctly “African” accent if you will… but everybody tends to recognize that I might be francophone. So I guess it affected my speech a lot more than I thought. My friends who studied in London and I have slightly different accents because of where we learn our idioms etc.. Even if we all speak with that distinctive “francophone” accent (I still have a hard time saying “House”, and never knows where to put the emphasis in “Inventory”)

    A person’s learning a second (3rd, 4th etc..) language will speak that language without an accent if the language is learned before the age of 13. After the age of 13, the brain area responsible for speech is solidified and our 2nd language truly is and remains a second language.

    • lucidlilith December 10, 2009 at 10:53 am #

      Wow. I never knew that about age and language. Arent there people that learn new languages that somehow manage to do so without accents, like Charlize Theron who is South African.

  10. Vera Ezimora December 10, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    Rosie! Rosie!! Rosie!!!

    I don’t appreciate you using the word, “steal.” Why would I steal this topic for my show???

    That said, I will now “suggest” this topic for my producer. Sure, I’m my own producer, but so what?!

    Per the accent, I’m with you. I’ve always thought my accent has not changed one bit, but my cousin back home always says I’m talking funny like ndi ocha. I’ve always thought he’s crazy.

    • lucidlilith December 10, 2009 at 10:54 am #

      LOL. My sister said the same to me.
      I berra start collecting royalties for my ideas..he he he.

  11. Azazel December 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    My accent is fantabulous lily lol..
    U should hear it lmao. It’s nice

    • lucidlilith December 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

      Call in tomorrow for the radio show! Introduce yourself and let me hear your fabulous accent! ha ha!

  12. Emeka December 11, 2009 at 5:54 am #

    agree with Ms Sula ..”Stay long enough in a certain area and you are bound to imitate/copy the speech patterns. It’s unconscious.”

    I just need to add that in most cases although the progressive adoption and evidence of an accent is unconcious, it stems from a concious effort to communicate effectively. And the timeframe deemed as “long enough” does not neccessarily suggest years but represents any period of continous interaction.

    I am guessing that people “pickup” the accents in the same manner that in a bid to be understood and communicate in the shortest possible time, I can be found reeling out sentences that would send my English teachers to an early grave and earn me the chief bomb dropper (shelling i believe its called) amongst my peers. In my stint in one of the asian countries it was such a circus at work getting through the day : the nigerian, the american and the locals. the sequence of “what? what? what? pause..sighs gesticulations, mini dramas, references… and then the aha! aha!… you mean…(and one of us either says the word) ….all this drama may have come from inability of one to pronounce a word just like is typical to the other (and hence the birth of you adopting that particular pronounciation and of course that is smart since you don’t want to spend 10minutes having a conversation that should take 1minute) or it may arise from using all the proper english tenses in a sentence. it is magical how comprehension is established if you drop one or two tenses (unfortunately this results in the “shelling”-aforementioned).

    Each to his own… …as long as you establish comprehension of communication in a minimal amount of time…. nsogbu adiro…!

    • lucidlilith December 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

      lmao! Geez it must have been so frustrating. Why did you guys not have a translator? Did the Asians insist on speaking their own version of ‘English?’

  13. Adanne December 11, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    My accent has definitely changed, I switch a lot depending on who I’m talking to and my “fonee” is more pronounced when I’m on the phone regardless of who I talk to.

    I’m with Emeka, when I first moved to the US I consciously made it a point to pick up the accent because I didn’t have the energy to repeat myself 10x over.

    BTW: Thank you for linking One3Snapshot 😉

    • lucidlilith December 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

      True..when I first came, I made a conscious effort to be understood. In fact people used to tell me my English was flawless and whether all Africans spoke English like that.

      No probs dearie…I love that website.

  14. Good Naija Girl December 14, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    The developments of differing accents in nations that are strictly English speaking would be a very interesting thing to learn more about!

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