Demystifying speaking ‘The Queen’s English’
Picking up from the last time where I started on the issue of our obsession with English language at the detriment of our own African languages (in this instance, Yoruba), one of the subtle or subconscious reasons in my opinion is our claim and pride over the years of our desire to speak or our claim to speak “The Queen’s English” which I would now like to look at as this claim in my opinion, is not only wrong but it’s helping to unconsciously still tie us to the colonial regime which at least two-third of Nigerians alive today only read about, meaning that this claim was passed down from past generations. I honestly believe that it’s high time we stopped using this expression and take pride in the fact that we have coined our own version of English language, which is Nigerian English.
‘The Queen’s English’ – What does this mean?
“The Queen’s English” is defined by Oxford dictionary as “The English language as written and spoken correctly by educated people in Britain” it is also described elsewhere as “…‘posh’…English accent spoken by the royal family and other members of the upper classes in the UK. It is an accent which fascinates many non-native speakers…..” (Read more here). How true this is!
Are English accents the same everywhere?
It is also worth noting that English accents even within the UK are very different depending on which part of the country, not to mention between other different English speaking countries like America, Canada, New Zealand and so on.
With this in mind, it is therefore a sort of delusion, if we think we speak “The Queen’s English” as
- The way we use some words in our sentences and other grammatical expressions are not the same as the British English
- Our pronunciation of many words are not the same (Leicester, Arsenal etc.) despite hearing it over and over again
- Our tones and intonations are Nigerians even with all the new technologies at our disposal
- “Additionally, some new words and collocations have emerged from the language, which come from the need to express concepts specific to the culture of the nation (e.g.senior wife” (Source: Wikipedia) and so on.
And there is no reason why our accents should be the same! Nigerian accent is Nigerians while British accent is British. Of course, we all (British, Nigerian etc.) do have to modify our tones to a degree to ensure we can understand each other whether British, Nigerian or Canadian for that matter.
Speaking ‘The Queen’s English’ and ensued issues
This pride in relation to speaking The Queen’s English has brought about two-fold issues in my observation, the first being that, it has created so many accents within our Nigerian society. For instance, you get to hear so many different English accents especially among the young ones in their 20’s and 30’s in their bid to “speak The Queen’s English”. One wonders which one is Nigerian as there are so many and it makes it sometimes impossible to even understand what some people are saying.
Ikeja Airport experience
Here’s an example to illustrate my point. Sometimes ago I was at Ikeja Airport, waiting for my flight to be called. While waiting, I realised that I could not understand what was being announced over the PA system by a female voice. In order not to miss my flight, I kept close to a nearby reception desk where I kept asking for what was said whenever this individual made an announcement. I believe I would have probably missed my flight were it not for the help of the other lady at the reception desk as I just could not understand this supposed ‘posh accent’ which was not the typical Nigerian English accent I am used to.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that there are so many regions in Nigeria which could affect some people’s intonation, but not to the extent that this lady’s tone’s modification was as it gave a different impression as someone trying hard to be who they are not.
Some Nigerians outside of Nigeria
The other side of this delusion is about those that have left the shore of Nigeria; they are living outside of Nigeria (UK, America, Canada etc.,) and are either emulating or trying to emulate the white so badly that one wonders why especially if they had been known to speak differently when in Nigeria or few years back before.
Be the best of you!
Now, the irony of this desire and penchant for “Queen’s English” is that the same people you want to copy or emulate would rather prefer you to be yourself. For some years now, the British (I am sure that similar acts would be found be in America, Canada or Australia) have been encouraging and helping other cultures to promote their cultures and languages. They support charitable organisations (NGOs) that are promoting their languages and cultures. Some are even learning our languages (see the inscription on this photo), but it seems we are not ‘getting’ it yet as we are still engrossed with being like them when we are being asked to be our better self!
English speaking countries around the world
I believe it’s time we took pride in our own Nigerian English and ourselves just as the Americans, the Canadians and the Australians have coined their own English and are very proud of who they are. I believe that they also went through some of this dilemma that we are going through; after all, the term “cultural cringe” has its origin in Australia and history would bear me record that America, Canada and Australia have some of their roots from Britain, therefore, I believe that it’s high time we detached ourselves from colonialism cord and embrace our uniqueness as a multi-lingua society.
Borrow a leaf from Canada?
Just to say that it is fascinating to know that Canada is officially bilingual (English and French) and it is acceptable to speak any of these two languages in the country and I’m thinking, why not us, why can’t we do something slightly similar, why can’t we be bilingual in each state officially as we are already doing unofficially?
I am aware of various states and federal governments’ efforts in encouraging this but it seems people are not listening or grasping what is going on. I do not think everything can be legislated. Certain things have to come from people’s understanding before they can fully ‘buy’ into it, and helping to see the need to change and ‘buy’ into this idea is the purpose of this blog.
The question now is why can’t we enjoy speaking our GOD given languages with ourselves (this includes enabling our children to speak our language from birth) and with the world? Why not?
It’s just a thought!