The Myth of the Nigerian Accent [Featured Artiste: T Sharp]

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Apart from the shock of seeing a certain cousin in a gospel music video today, my week has been quite good. How has yours been? So-so? Ah well, stay positive. Like Nigerians say, “God Dey.” Speaking of which, today’s topic is something that has been sitting in my heart for a couple of years now. I debated on whether or not to actually discuss it, and after torturing myself and oscillating between two choices, I settled on this one, i.e. to air my views on this singular issue. Now, this is highly subjective, so feel free to share your own thoughts as well.

In several classes in college here in the US, I found myself to be the only black person in the classroom, and consequently, the only Nigerian (Well, duh!) I still do not know if it was just culture shock, or just me having a “deer in the headlights” moment (more than one moment, actually, if you count all the classes I took). But what usually happened was that when the teacher or professor called on me to answer a question, my own voice sounded very different to me, like the voice of another person. 

That was a major shift from the two years I spent in UNILAG where everyone pretty much sounded the same way. It was a lot worse in law school where they practiced the so-called “Socratic Method,” i.e. the professor can “call on” you randomly to answer a question, and depending on the professor’s teaching style, he might call on ONLY you for the entire class period. Needless to say, for those who were caught unawares (which was pretty much everyone), “boys were not smiling.” In fact, I have had a few people (Americans obviously) tell me that I sound Jamaican! *rolls eyes* Of course, there is nothing wrong with sounding Jamaican, except for one thing: I am a NIGERIAN. And that begs the question: What does a Nigerian accent sound like?

The short answer to that question is: I don’t know. Let me explain why. How you would define a Nigerian accent might differ from how I would define it. I have noticed that there is an “ajebota-ajepaki” dichotomy (I cannot believe I just used the word “dichotomy after “ajebota” and “ajepaki” … My, my, Relentless! Loosen up a bit!) with respect to how people (specifically, Nigerians) view certain issues. If a person fakes a foreign accent convincingly (I am of course referring to a British or American accent), or sounds eloquent we call that person “tush” and label him or her an “ajebota” (even if that person got his or her “lessons” from watching countless re-runs of soap-operas like “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young and The Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” (“The Hot and Bothered” nko? Or “The Loony and Confused”? *cackles*) 

BUT, if someone sounds too much like they were imported directly from AJ-City (Ajegunle), too much like Iya Wura who sells ata rodo and okra in the market, or worse still, if the person sounds like he is speaking Yoruba even when he is speaking English (Yes, even if the person’s grammar is SOUND), we call that person “razz” and label him or her an “ajepaki.” And then, of course, we have the “in-betweeners,” those who are neither here nor there. It is the way these “in-betweeners” speak that I think most of us are apt to describe as the Nigerian accent. But here are a few concerns:
  • Our Nigerian news broadcasters (on radio and television) often speak with a distinct BRITISH accent (Some of them forget sometimes and “convert” to an American accent, but as soon as they discover their mistake, they switch back to their British accent). I don’t know whether this is done in an effort to appeal to an international audience, but abeg o, MOST of your viewers are Nigerians IN Nigeria. So, who are you faking British accent for? Or are you saying Nigerians cannot understand you unless you “fake” your accent? 
  • I understand that Nigeria was colonized by the British and English is not our native language. But in order to speak English correctly, do we have to imitate the British accent? I don’t think so. As long as the person you are speaking to understands you, you don't need to add any yeye accent. If you want to argue that the British or American accent is more "international" please bear in mind that some folks still don’t understand what either of these people say (I’m serious).
  • When it comes to singing and/or rapping, we fake our accents as well. It gets TRÈS TRÈS RIDICULOUS when a rapper is rapping in pidgin and is still faking his accent. Who are you fooling? Dude, it is NOT that serious! 
  • Using America as an example, I understand that if you grew up in America, you will more than likely have an American accent and that's cool. But, what baffles me is when I meet people who, like me, came here when they were teenagers or in their 20s or later, and have been here for maybe 2 years and all of a sudden have a "fake" American accent. I mean, they use it even when they are around other Nigerians. Ridiculous! I understand you faking your accent to make Americans understand you better (though it is not always necessary), but when you are around fellow Nigerians, what is the point? Or are you so used to it that you forget you're faking your accent?
  • The WORST offenders are people who go to get a Masters in the UK for 1 or 2 years and come back trying to sound like they've lived there all their lives. Would it really kill you to retain your Nigerian accent? Is it so terrible that you have to make such a poor attempt to cover it up? The funniest example I have ever seen is a guy who could not roll his R’s properly and ended up pronouncing it like French people do and still faking his accent on top of it .... Pathetic! 
My definition of fake in the context of “faking your accent” is when you speak and you are clearly trying to sound British or American, but failing woefully because I can still clearly hear that STRONG Naija flavor in your voice. It is bad, though I have to admit that some people are better at masking it than others are. I guess some are better actors than others. But, it just evokes images of the meat pie-making process, where you put that "egg-wash" on the meat pie to make the dough shinier or more presentable, but we can still clearly see the shape and color of the dough....Okay, too many food metaphors. Let me slow down a bit.

Well, here is my CONCLUSION: The most important thing is COMMUNICATION. If I can understand what you are saying without faking your accent, then why bother? Maybe the Nigerian accent is a hodgepodge of sorts, but when you hear a Nigerian speak, you will know. Rock your own Naija accent. It is NOT bush.

On a lighter note, here is a piece of advice: Use the “JENIFA” TEST (from the Yoruba movie, JENIFA), i.e. if you fall down suddenly, and you’re in serious pain, what kind of exclamation comes out of your mouth? Is it:

A. “YEEEE” or better still “YEEPA”

B. Something else that is very similar to “A”

C. “OUCH”? (Or like Jenifa would say “Housh” … LOL)

D. None of the above. I just hobble away singing a hymn.

Notice I did not ask if you curse or swear. That is not relevant for the purpose of this test. If your answer is Option A or B, Congratulations! You “think” with a Nigerian accent. If it is Option C or D, you’re still in serious denial. Allow me to push you down a second time and take the test again! *laughs*

Featured Artiste: T Sharp

T Sharp / ReverbNation
The first time I heard today’s featured song (i.e. last week), I wasn’t exactly sold on it.  But I have to admit that I fell in love with the hook (The “I want to be a Christian” part).  So without wasting more time, enjoy “I want to be a Xtian” by T Sharp.  As usual, please see additional information on the artiste below. 

Artiste’s Stage Name: T Sharp
Artiste’s Real Name: Taiwo Ogobowale
ReverbNation Page:
Facebook Page:
Featured Song: I want to be a xtian (Christian)

I want to be a xtian (Audio):

Have a splendid week (at least, what’s left of it!) 

Oh.. that was an interesting read. So, which one do you belong o, Relentless? Ajebo or Pako or in-between? | Yes, I am torturing you! lol
I have spent over 5yrs outside of Nigeria; however, I've lived in 3 countries within these years and torn between several accents. Truth is, I've found feigning accents a challenge, so I just speak whichever comes on my tongue; and very well depending on my audience or listener.
What I find most funny is, whenever I talk to my fiance over the phone, its so hard to use a Kiwi accent! lol | I just lose it! I lose myself whenever I am talking to her. Also whenever I am trying to make people laugh.. the accent thing doesnt just occur to me at all! lol *abeg make I stop here* lol

And that "I wanna be a christian" song is awesome! I love it too.


Its the need to feel among what some set of people have labelled as tush that causes all this. We are not proud of our roots and are quick to disregard it an embrace foreign ones.


I think you're right o.  The original "feel-among-er" syndrome (or is it "filamonga"?) in all its annoying glory.  We just tend to think everything foreign is good and desirable and don't value what we have.  That is, until some "foreigner" comes and labels it as "cool."

Thanks for stopping by, Atilola! soso by force oyinbo now. I have been told I speak oyinbonized English when I argue... I find it funny. People like to form sha, I once met a girl with the thickest Ibo accent ever that claimed she couldn't speak her native language, In my head I was like "B*&^ PLEASE" haha.


Hehe, the jim iyke approach if you don't got the accent then fake the accent lol. 

As per your Jenifa test, when I fall I usually stand up saying crap... (thinking) maybe I've been in this country for too long. Btw love the post <3

I speak very good English when I'm pissed (from research) LOL. *raising hands* I don't know if this happens to everyone one but I guess its reflex/bad habit that when you're on the phone with someone from Jand or Yankee, your accent somehow changes (for that period sha oo). I'm confessing ni ooo



LOL @ oyinbonized English. I would love to hear it myself.  But your reaction to the girl with the thick Igbo accent really cracked me up! That was just CLASSIC! For real, people like to form and they have convinced themselves that forming is the way forward. Epic fail!

Nollywood ReInvented:

He he he! Jim Iyke is a classic example! I cannot even think why I did not mention him sef.  My sister calls him the "mumbler" because he just mumbles words (not to mention the harassing "weaker" people like meyguards in his movies.... LOL! Jim, Jim!)

Maybe "Crap" falls into the same category as "Yeepa", so maybe it is "Option B" that works for you.  It certainly takes less effort to say Crap than Ouch....To me sha.  I am glad you loved the post.  


Ha! So you are also guilty! *smh* LOL! Who conducted the research? You or other observers? *still laughing*

That your confession about changing your accent was a timely one.  I have noticed it with a lot of my friends from Naija.  Because I have retained my Nigerian accent, I often wonder if it is me who lives in Nigeria and not vice-versa...As in....Maybe it is just a reflex action sha...Please "un-reflex" it ehn...God bless you as you comply.  LOL!

Relentless! So I was feeling a bit down the other day and I thought, 'I should check out Relentless's blog to see if she's written something recently' and you had, and I read it, and I laughed and felt better. That my friend, means you've made it. :)

Ok, to the post at hand. I've lived in the UK for about 10 years now and when I first came, I sounded like any other just-left-secondary-school Nigerian girl out there, but I ended up in a college with barely any black people and I soon realised that the only way I was going to get understood or even better, understand the people I was forced to be around, was to learn the language (I mean, accent) sharpish! Ok, so I didn't actually learn it per se, but I quickly found my Nigerian accent disappearing except for when I was around conc (I'm assuming you know this slang) Nigerians (i.e. Nigerians that sound the same whether they're in Ajegunle market or at a bank on the British high street)!

So, even though I can still speak Nigerian (lol), I do have a British accent most of the time. It does not make me less Nigerian, I don't think I think British (I didn't actually fall down but some water splashed on my head the other day and I heard myself say 'ayiii!'- not sure where that came from!) but it does help me in the environment I currently find myself in. If I'm ever back to Nigeria for good, I'm sure the British accent will disappear as quickly as it came. (Although- and I'm ranting now- I had a secondary school teacher that had her undergraduate degree in the UK for ONLY 4 years and she still had a British accent over 20 years later. We the students found it very baffling...)


Ha! You want to "to-sho" (torture) me on this blog? Which do I belong ke? I think you already know, so I will leave you to draw your conclusions.

It sounds like you are truly international (3 countries) and I can see how it would be a challenge to keep up with all those different accents.  And of course, you cannot fake any accent with Dudushewa now.  She'll see right through it in a second! LOL! I just find that when I try to fake accents, I am suppressing an authentic part of myself and I avoid it.

Glad you liked the song too! 

(*sniff, sniff*) Your comment really made my day! If you can read this blog and feel better, then I guess I am not just taking up space on the planet (*Seven Hallelujahs to Jehovah*)

It sounds like your experience was similar to mine as far as being one of the few black people in a class (or school, period!), but then again, I guess a lot of Nigerians in the diaspora can testify about the same issue.  But, from what you have stated here, you don't fall into the category of people I was referring to in my post.  You have lived in the UK for 10 years (1 year more than I have lived here), so I can expect your accent to change.  More importantly, you mentioned that your Nigerian accent "makes an appearance" around "konk" (Yes, I know that slang too) Nigerians.  

Whether you speak with a different accent or not, of course, does not make you less Nigerian than another person (I will iron this out in subsequent posts).  "Ayii" still falls under "Option B" because it is not a Western exclamation / form of expression (right?!) 

As for your teacher, I am just as baffled as you are.  But, I daresay that some people make EVERY effort to retain a foreign accent regardless of how long they have spent in the country.  

I've lived in the US for 10years now and I still get teased for my Nigerian accent. I have an african american older friend who laughs all the time when I speak. And I tell him - if you went to England, your accent would be different too.
That said, I find that my english rolls off my tongue in different ways depending on the audience. With americans, I make an effort to make sure that I'm understood. Simple things like saying opporTUnity versus oppo"chu"nity like we say it in naija. But my tongue is very lazy so as soon as I can revert to naija speak, I'm very happy to do so.
Faking it is what is wrong. Usually people that fake it want to present themselves as what they are not e.g. as having been in the country longer than they have been.
People do it because they pay attention to the labeling - you are either tush or razz. Which is a label that irks me. By what measure do you determine whether someone is razz or not?


First off, thanks Ola for leaving such a detailed comment.

I have lived in the US for almost as long as you have and still have my Nigerian accent intact.  I have gotten teased for it too sometimes, but I have gotten more compliments than negative remarks, so I am still powering at full speed ... LOL. What you told your AA friend who teases you is quite correct.  After all, I did not know I had an "accent" until I came here.  Amongst other Nigerians, your accent just blends in.  

I know what you mean about pronouncing certain words more carefully to make sure you are understood because I have to do so too.  Like I said, the most important thing is communication.  If the other person understands what you are saying, then your work is done.  

As far as that label "razz" or "tush," I think it might be a class thing (as much as I hate saying that, I have found that it is true).  We just like putting labels on people to make ourselves look better than them.  But I know other people have their own criteria for what is razz or what is tush.  It can be very offensive though to call someone razz because he or she doesn't sound like you. 

Thanks for stopping by! 

LOL. I think it is different for everyone. Personally, I have been told I sound like a midwestern American and in other cases, I have been told I sound like I am from the Carribean. I do not even try...i just speak.

Others have said your accent is thick and some say I cannot dictate an accent. It is very probable that the longer you live in a country,  the more you take on its nuances. I have encounter pple that moved to a different country and 37and the half years later...they sound like the tribal chief of their village.  It differs for everyone jare. I also believe it can depend on who you spend most of your time with. I have stopped wondering about everyone and the accents that rolls sweetly or painfully off their tongue. My own be say if you start saying "uh uh uh" every time i speak, I will pull your stupid tongue out of your month. lol

Wow! So you even got your accent attributed to more than one part of the world ... Wonders shall never end! People perceive things differently, I suppose.  

The point you made about taking on the nuances based on how long you live in the country is very valid, but then again, like you rightly said, there are exceptions to that rule ... LOL at the tribal chief comment! Oh boy ... and I thought I was the only one who had those thoughts and reactions ... 

ROFL at pulling someone's tongue out of their mouth! *Now picturing it* ... Picturing it is not helping matters ... I am still laughing .... But I feel your pain on that level.  It can be most irritating *rolls eyes at anonymous offender*

*in a British accent* I can't believe i'm just reading this. funny that was some serious faking. I totally enjoyed reading it and all the comments. I know someone who spent 3 months in the Uk and has retained accent. shio. I love my 9ja flavour altho i speak very distinctly.

*in thick Isale Eko accent* Ki lo n je 'innit'? LOL! Oh boy, an audio file would have been perfect to back this comment up.  I am glad you enjoyed reading the post.  The comments were even more informative, ba? 'Shio' is the correct reaction to the 3-month UK accent story.  Na wa o! It just makes you wonder sha.  Abeg rock your Naija accent.  I have retained mine even after all these years. I won't change.

The more people "compliment" me saying "you're from Africa? You don't have an accent", the more I resolve to speak with my Nigerian accent. It does take some effort to speak like you've never left the small town you live in, just so people won't keep asking you to repeat yourself over and over again. The other day I was talking to someone on the phone and said the name "Thomas" like my mother taught me to. I stressed the -TH- because the name is spelled THOMAS. To my greatest surprise, the lady asked me to say it at least 3 times over, put me on hold, only to return later and ask if I meant TOMAS - pronounced just as spelled. When I confirmed we were talking about the same person, she said "OOOOOOOOOOO" she thought I said "SOLOMOS". How is SOLOMOS (is that even a name?) related to THOMAS biko? 

Experiences like this break my resolve to speak with my true intonation. But you won't catch me saying "ouch" when I fall ... too much effort. Actually, "EEEEiiiiiiiii" sounds more like it.



Welcome to my world! You see how you described pronouncing Thomas, ehn, that's what I face daily with pronouncing my real name, which is an English name to begin with.  I don't know what they would do if I made them pronounce my Yoruba name.  Break out in cold sweat, I suppose! Just like you rightly said, and I have experienced myself, it saves you tons of time and energy to just "fake" your accent and keep it moving.  The real thrust of this blog post was really Nigerians faking their accent around other Nigerians.  That is where I draw the line because I don't think it is necessary.

LOL @ Solomos! Biko, how do you derive Solomos from Thomas? *smh* And as for your reaction to falling down, I think that would be "Option B."  I appreciate your honesty o! Thanks for stopping by and visit often :-)


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