According to Dictionary.com; Accent is defined as the unique speech patterns, inflections, choice of words, etc., that identify a particular individual.
What influences our accents? Why do we speak the way we do?
Here is a simple summary from Wikipedia, that answers these questions;
An accent may be identified with the locality in which its speakers reside (a regional or geographical accent), the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class (a social accent), or influence from their first language (a foreign accent). In fact, the highest rated answer to these questions by yahoo answers is- Our Community.
If our community or ethnicity influences the way we speak, that means when an Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba man speaks, you can tell his tribe especially if he resides in his locality. So why do we flinch when Nigerians speak and we can tell their tribes? Why are people with foreign accents respected and accepted more by Nigerians? My answer is ignorance and self-hate. Nigerians are blessed to have a country made up of over 250 ethnics group Or we would have been blessed if we were so diverse, yet one people. It is the ignorance (of not knowing what we have and self-hate from thinking the Caucasian race is better ours) that hinders us from appreciating our uniqueness, which therefore leads one into rejecting an original identity in the quest for another.
Look at other African countries such as Kenya, South Africa and even our neighbour Ghana; when these people speak, often times- one can tell their locality! It is bad enough that we bleach our skins, wear hairs that aren’t ours, dress different from the way we ought to etc., As though we aren’t lost, we then want to be COMPLETELY lost by changing the way we ought to sound?
Speaking well doesn’t mean one needs to acquire an accent, which would only make us look more stupid in the eyes of the original owners of the language. Here are some comments on snippets.com, expressing what to means to speak well;
Comment 1- Speaking well has two different connotations. First, one uses proper English both grammatically and in word choices. Second, it also can mean the speaker not only uses language well but knows how to engage and hold his audience, using techniques such as humor, stories and example to support his message. His tone, pacing, and delivery is good
Comment 2- t means to enunciate your words, be articulate, speak clearly on a level that everyone can understand and identify with. To speak well is to show your intelligence.
Little wonder i feel disconnected from most radio presenters, especially when it is impossible to place the accent. How can identify with something that is meant to be black, but is coa in a different colour?
If people like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Chimamanda Adichie, etc., are influencing the world speaking in not “artificially” acquired accent, i wonder why you shouldn’t embrace your original accent.