Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How I speak

A blogpost I read a while back stuck with me.
It was about Ghanaians losing their Ghanaian accent (deliberately or not), when they travel outside the country.
I remember this post because I am one of those people.
I remember this post because it bothers me now, that I lost my Ghanaian accent.

Plus side: Being a prankster, I get my kicks from getting to see the blank look on people's faces when we meet, after talking to them on the phone.

I adapted to my host country and changed to make their life and my life easier.
It gets annoying when "huh?" keeps interrupting simple conversations/ discussions.
You wont catch me saying Subaru in this town! Su-bah-roo? Nah. That wont work. It will turn too many heads so I'll blend in with Su-broo.
Yeah I know. Silly. That's how I felt today describing that car.

There are no regrets. However, I wish back then, I didnt need to compromise so much.


  1. It's always tough when you plunge into a new culture. You must adapt. And I don't have problems with such intonations. Where I have a problem is those who've been nowhere; those who're in Ghana and still speak like they've stayed out for over a century; those with LAFA (Locally-Acquired Foreign Accent). It's laughable. Mostly, they bundle their grammar and phonetics. I don't think too much about phonetics as I do about grammar.

  2. I think of an accent as a way to maintain cultural identity while venturing into new territory.

    Think 'Bout it, Even consciously, it's not easy for most people to lose/gain an accent, so I'm wondering how long it took you, and how old you were when you first decided to change?

    Btw, in a class we are talking about intelligibility vs. pronunciation standards this week...so it threw me to divert to blog world only to see more of the same:)

  3. Yeah, I always used to think everybody that dint speak like a Ghanaian has an accent until I was sitting somewhere in Canada and telling some Canadian that she has an accent. Well, she looks at me incredulously and says since I'm the minority, I am the one with the accent (Imagine! Ghanaian accent. Never heard of that).
    One thing I've realised is while Ghanaians living outside go out of their way to speak with the accent of whichever country they living in, most foreigners I've interacted with who have been living in Ghana for years do not speak with a Ghanaian accent. They still maintain the accent of their country of origin. And the Ghanaians that come back to settle in Ghana after living outside for a while maintain their newly acquired accents even though they are now living in Ghana making it difficult for some of us to understand them. If really the whole idea of switching to use a different accent is cos you trying to adapt to your new environment then adapt when you move back to Gh instead of disturbing our ears with your Su-broo.
    That means you, Think-Bout It, better start practising your Gh accent, perfect it, before you decide to ever come back to settle in Gh.
    Great! Now I feel good after I let all that out.
    For me, the accent I have was developed by watching too much television as a child not because I lived anywhere. Sometimes that's how some of us get our LAFA (watching too many foreign programmes on TV). I made a presentation two weeks ago at school and someone actually asked me if I am Ghanaian (can you imagine) all cos I pronounced data the American/Canadian way and I pronounced Twitter without sounding the t's in the middle smh.

  4. I always smile whenever I come over here. I know what you mean but adapting to your adopted country is not a bad thing. :)

  5. Nana, it is easy to spot when someone tries too hard to speak differently. (I know. I used to make fun of them).
    I probably went through a phase similar to LAFA during my adjustment period but I can't tell because no one made fun of me (like I would). If I did, I don't think it lasted long because my reason for working on speaking differently was to take attention away from how I spoke.

  6. Altheakale, your words lit a light bulb. I thought about it and I believe I have maintained my cultural identity in all ways except keeping my accent.
    I was 21 when I left home. 6 months later (in school & working), I decided to blend in so that people would hear what I say and not the accent with which I say it.

  7. Efua Dentaa, you are right that foreigners in Ghana do not bother to "blend in" with the Ghanaian accent when speaking English. I haven't asked any of them why but I am curious as to what their genuine reasons would be.

    Here is something you might find interesting. I speak Ghanaian languages, pidgin & English with people here. There are some words that automatically default to the Americanized version, regardless of which language I'm speaking. (I know. Weird). A simple example is my christian name. Ask me in any language what my name is, and I automatically pronounce it like an American would.
    I have 3 friends actively teasing me about that. Not easy to change back. That's part of the reason why it bothers me now, that I lost my accent.

    hmmm Motivation could be the key.
    Your threat might just be strong enough to make me get my Ghanaian accent back.
    Meanwhile, keep on saying twit'er. I'll soon sound less westernized than you. (Don't expect me to say "twitah" though)

  8. Kiru, thanks for the compliment. I love your stories and I'm super excited for you about your book.
    True, adapting isn't a bad thing. I believe I benefited a lot from it. Not sure how much adapting was really necessary.

  9. As a foreigner in Ghana, I did modify my accent to be better understood while giving lessons. I didn't do it purposefully, but was desperate to be as clear as possible. Also, some of the words are different. Teachers mark papers rather than grade papers, for example. I found myself using new words, once again for clarity.

  10. Altheakale, I see that the need to be clearly understood gets us to make changes in the way we speak or sound.

    The difference in ways we use some words in Ghana! I smile anytime I hear the Ghanaian versions. It has been happening a lot lately. :-)