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Re: Those Annoyingly Fake Transatlantic Accents at Nigerian Airports

I normally don’t publish reactions to my articles on language and grammar, but I’ve decided to break with tradition this week because, app...

I normally don’t publish reactions to my articles on language and grammar, but I’ve decided to break with tradition this week because, apparently, Nigerian airport announcers’ atrocious accents have been an enduring concern for so many Nigerian and foreign airport users. I only gave words to this concern. I have decided to share a sample of readers’ reactions to last week’s column in hopes that airport authorities in Nigeria will be persuaded to encourage their announcers to speak in everyday Nigerian accents— or learn to speak in proper British or American accent if they insist on speaking with non-Nigerian accents.

I have always known that something had to be wrong with our airport announcers’ accents when I discovered that although I don’t understand a lick of what they say, I have no trouble understanding CNN and BBC  newscasters, Obama, David Cameron, American movies, etc. But your article gave me the intellectual validation I need to know that I am not stupid for not understanding what airport announcers and radio DJs in Nigeria say. Now I know it is the airport announcers and radio DJs that are stupid. What buffoons! Why speak to a public audience in an accent NO ONE but you understands? I am frankly not even sure that these buffoons understand their own “blare of nasal cacophony,” to use your apt description! Thank you so much for always being a breath of intellectual fresh air. Don’t stop please.
Lawrence Kerume

I am so glad I read this article. I had thought that I didn’t understand the accents of airport announcers because I have never lived abroad before and have only little familiarity with foreign accents. So, I used to be ashamed to ask anybody for help lest they should laugh at me and call me a “bush man.” Reading you, a professor who teaches English people their own language, saying our airport announcers’ accents are incomprehensible not only to you but to even white people themselves made me feel so good with myself. I may be a “bush man” but at least I now know that my inability to understand the accents of our airport announcers isn’t because of my lack of foreign exposure. It is because of their “pronunciational imbecility” (to use your powerful choice of words). I hope airport authorities will read this article and save Nigerian and foreign airport users from airport announcers’ “abominably inaudible babbles that mindlessly grate on the hearer’s auditory sensibilities….,” to use your beautiful words again. Thanks for so much for a refreshing article.
Boniface Chukwu

Your piece is at once humorous and instructive. I am an American born of Nigerian parents. My parents insist I go with them to Nigeria at least once every 5 years—sometimes more. Because my parents always speak to me in their Nigerian accent, I am not only familiar with Nigerian accent, I can switch to one when the need arises. Of course, being born and raised in America, Nigerian accent doesn’t come to me naturally, but I think I do a pretty good job of switching to it when I speak with Nigerians.

 But I’ve noticed that when I relate to Nigerians in Nigeria, they like to speak to me in what they think is an American accent, which is frankly unintelligible to me. I usually have not the slightest clue what they are saying. Your description of the affected accents as “tediously fake and exaggeratedly nasalized” is so spot on. That’s precisely what they are.
 I once told a relative of mine to please speak to me like a Nigerian, and he took offense. He thought I was being a snob or something. But I simply wanted us to have a communication. I didn’t understand what he was saying in the “nasalized babble” he thought was American accent. And since I perfectly understand even the “thickest” Nigerian accent, I pleaded with him to just be himself.

You’re absolutely right that the airport announcers’ accents are particularly awful! I have learned to never even pay attention to them because it is impossible to understand them. I hope some higher-up in Nigeria’s airport administration has read your column and will work to fix this “nasal babbling” problem at Nigeria’s airports. But most importantly someone should let Nigerians know that Nigerian English accent is beautiful. There is no reason to be ashamed of it. I am glad you called attention to the CNN article that rated Nigerian English accent as one of the world’s top 10 sexiest English accents. If you publish this please don’t use my real name.
Toyin Olumide (not real name)

I missed my flight last two weeks (from Abuja) even though I had been at the Airport Departure Lounge two hours before departure. When I didn't hear anything 40 minutes after the scheduled time, I went and asked Arik Airline officials who told me that the flight had already left. When I went to the ticketing office to reschedule my journey and complained about how I missed my flight because of lack clarity of the announcements and how three of my colleagues also missed theirs in December, I was advised to be asking people on the boarding queue anytime am travelling. It was painful but I now humbly accept the advice. I do frequently ask the officials or queuing passengers the moment my flight time hour sets in.

Your essay aptly captured the way and manner they speak - particularly the lady at Abuja Airport. I believe it is a product of nepotism, because there are millions of Nigerians (some even jobless) who can do the job flawlessly if given the opportunity.
Aminu Ibrahim

You really spoke the mind of our facilitator for a course entitled “Phonetics and Phonology” in the person of Prof. Andrew Haruna of the University of Maiduguri who is on sabbatical leave at Bayero University Kano. He used to draw our attention to the irksome phenomenon of lack of adequate phonetic training by Nigerian airport announcers. He even once narrated to us one incident in which one airport announcer nearly caused an accident with his botched foreign accent because the pilot of the plane happened to be a foreigner who couldn’t understand him. This piece will indeed catch linguists’ and phoneticians’ critical attention in particular, and it will serve as the foundation for any thorough academic research on this subject matter. I really enjoy reading your educative column. A weekend without your column is like a food without soup. The sky will be your limit, our distinguished, transcendental, versatile scholar and professor without borders.
Bashir Uba Ibrahim

Your piece made my day. It is so down-to-earth and hilarious but it is the reality. I was alone in the room but you got me ROFL! Thank God for the 'plight' which rescued you from your plight with the airport announcers!
Sabi Ibrahim
Thanks Prof. You have said it all. I have also noticed that these annoyingly fake accents are creeping in to Nollywood movies. Most of the actors, especially the young ones, try to speak like foreigners. Sometimes one has to play back before making out what they are saying.
Auwal Gambo

It is indeed becoming trendy for particularly FM continuity announcers and presenters to fake American or British accent when they evidently hardly understand the basics of, nor ever had close interactions with, either of the native-speaker accents. It is surely good to try and approximate native accents but certainly ludicrous and laughable if that is done with ignorance. Over to you airport and FM radio announcers.
Usman Zakari Ibrahim

In last week’s column, babbar riga was misspelled as “babar riga” and rhotic was auto-corrected by my computer’s spell-check to “rhetoric.”

In my January 17, 2016 article titled “Body Language,” “Screen Touch,” and “Say Me Well”: Q and A on Nigerian English Usage and Expressions,” I suggested the following to a questioner: “You could have written something like, ‘Please kindly provide the reagents listed above.’” Although “please kindly” is grammatical, it is unidiomatic, perhaps over-polite, and even tautologous. The phrase appears mostly in India English, which is noted for being fawningly deferential. Either "please" or kindly" would serve the same purpose. I meant to delete "kindly," but forgot do so.

In the same article, I wrote “slip of tongue” instead of “slip of the tongue.” Well, it was caused by a slip of the keyboard.

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