How British Accent Murdered Nigerian English

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There is too much British English in our Nigerian Schools!

Somehow, parents have convinced themselves that one of the key criteria to judge a school’s ability to teach children is how well the teachers speak the Queens English.

And the result?

School Teachers with a plethora of foreign sounding confusing accents manufactured in Nigeria … Teacher’s killing the r-factor or speaking through their noses just to sound British!

But this is nothing new, as far back as 1993 in Secondary School, I remember sitting in the school hall for a 2-hour session on how to pronounce words and letters properly.

Which was really someone basically telling us that our Nigerian accented way of pronouncing words was somehow inferior to the British accented pronunciations.

I left the session that day and remember feeling insecure about my English speaking ability. I mean I could speak good English, but I felt that my classmates that already had British accent naturally camping on their tongues were somehow better than me.

Now I am not against speaking proper English, what I am against is the false notion that somehow speaking proper English with a Nigerian accent is not proper English at all. And that English spoken improperly with an accent is somehow better!

We have created this beast that is comical to hear.

And it is not just exclusive to high-brow private schools. This pheonmena can be observed even in low-cost private and public schools.

I remember engaging with a teacher at one of those school whose job was already difficult as she struggled daily to utilize limited resources to get her Primary 4 students to read out loud and confidently.

And she was doing a good job, until…

On one particular day, her school owner hired one of these British-pronunciation experts to teach her students proper “English,” the proper way to read out loud.

Likely a parent request or one of those things the school owner felt would make his or her school hip … more Britishy[sic].

What ended up happening, was in summary … a total disaster!

To be more precise … it was a cacaphonic bomb of mass confusion that resulted in a set of Primary school-aged children exposed to a so-called pronunciation expert butchering and murdering English, leaving the kids even more confused than before!

What’s more, the original class teacher was left to pick up the pieces of the massacred English language. As she had to re-educate her kids and purge out the noise they had just been exposed to and convince them that they way they spoke with their beautiful Nigerian accents was okay.

The fact is, you can sound American or British or Australian and still use poor sentence structures. On the other hand you can have an accent, a h-factor but still nail your sentence constructs.

Let’s stop falling into the accent trap.

And yes before you BEAT ME with comments, I do know that a good number of Nigerian teachers sadly due to the deterioration of our Education institutions do not speak properly.

But let’s not make their learning curve even more difficult by trying to convince them that their natural accent is also a problem as well.

Our accent is beautiful, let’s embrace it, let’s teach people to love it, let’s hire specialists that speak proper English with Nigerian accents. Let’s do that, before “British Accent Kills Nigeria English!”

PS: What are your thoughts on this particular topic? Do you have any examples or opposing thoughts? I would like to hear them, but only in Nigerian English =D



Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
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8 comments on “How British Accent Murdered Nigerian English

  1. To be honest, Ofili, I do not know whether to disagree or agree with you for the following reasons:
    1. With the world being significantly “smaller’ now and the increasing use of speech-to-text apps, it is important to learn how to speak in a more universally acceptable accent. Thus, speaking Nigerian English may not benefit one’s career in the long run.

    2. The so-called British accent being taught in many schools is hogwash and even more damaging to pupils and students’ ability to speak properly.

    Therefore, I’m proposing that a standard curriculum be designed for oral English from primary schools. These lessons should be taught only by qualified professionals and should be in alignment with the schools’ English grammar curriculum. That way, they will learn both grammar and speech together and hopefully, we won’t have to deal with the Nigerian and British English dichotomy.

    • You just reinforced the notion that diction that comes with having a Nigerian language as a mother tongue or first language is somehow inferior and “not universally acceptable accent”.

      What is “a more universally acceptable accent”? Do you know that there’s a proper way to pronounce English words and it’s already in the curriculum for English Language in Nigerian schools … Oral English?

      Do you also know that the proper way of pronouncing English words doesn’t meaning cleaning out your accent and speaking like a Briton?

      Lack of internally generated self-esteem is the big challenge. It is the reason for the hunt for a foreign accent by all means… It is the reason why parents would crave their children to have it. It is the reason why you typed your comment with pride and hold the opinion that Nigerian children need a “a more universally acceptable accent”.
      Aziza Uko latest post is Why Buhari Is More Arrogant, Incompetent President Nigeria Ever Had [MUST READ]My Profile

  2. This is exactly feeling with regards to accents. Sometimes people are so occupied with another person accent that they completely lose focus from the message of the speaker. I’ve attended lectures where students walk away with nothing cause they are so occupied with how funny the lecturer sounds rather than his lecture. The problem isn’t one that is unique to nigeria, if a Nigerian speaks in Ghana his accent is immediately mocked and their accent considered as the “true British” accent which I find laughable really.

  3. As much as I will really appreciate people using the correct accents to speak English but I prefer rich vocabularies. Using the appropriate words and punctuation attract me to the speaker than accent.

  4. Chidozie on said:

    Is there such a thing as Nigerian English? If there is, then there is Indian English. Have you noticed the Indian Accent? You should here it from some who have a very heavy one. Yet the Indians are successful and I am sure they do give speeches and Presentations. I believe focus should be on speaking correctly with the right sentence structure

    To IniWrites comment: While voice command is becoming ubiquitous in this tech age. I believe these software will evolve to manage language affected by accent, hey what’s to say that we won’t be giving commands to these gadgets in Pidgin some day. 10 years ago google didn’t have Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa translations.

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