How did I get to this point of fluency?
Before I turned fourteen, aside having a soft nice voice, I was plagued by the inability to produce two vital sounds in both Igbo and English: the /r/ and /ch/ .
Before I turned 14, I couldn’t speak the English language fluently. My parents didn’t raise us to speak the English language. We were raised to speak our language. During Christmas , I would meet my cousins from Port Harcourt. They spoke pidgin English quite bad that everyone admired them. I couldn’t even converse with them because I just couldn’t speak any of the Languages properly.
Growing up in Enugu city especially places like Acharalayout, Uwani and New haven, you would hardly hear anyone speak pidgin English, let alone English. Although, at the moment, Kids of this decade living in Enugu all speak the English language fluently.
My speech defect caused people to laugh hysterically at me the day I prayed in church for the leaders. In the Igbo language, leaders are NDI NA ACHI ACHI. Due to my speech defect, I ended up calling those leaders NDI NA ASHI ASHI, which means LIARS. There was a wave of loud chuckles spreading across the church. After the service. Some men met me and said , “that was a nice prayer. It was pretty obvious our leaders are liars”. I was just ten. I was embarrassed. I knew I had a problem. I didn’t know how to change it. I didn’t even think I could change it.
Things began to change when friends jeered at me for not speaking the English language like a city-bred child. Everytime we had English, I knew I might be reading a paragraph. The teacher had to ascertain our fluency in reading. It was difficult for me to pronounce /r/. I would rather say /l/. I pronounced “rice” as “lice.” Yes, this is typical of people from Anambra I only made a decision to change after Jss 3. I spent that three-month vacation honing my craft in speaking. I assembled all the films I have seen before and began seeing them over again. This time, with a long note-book and a big Longman dictionary, I taught myself the English phonology, and because the films I watched more were American films, I got used to the American phonology first. I learnt how to produce the /r/ because Americans love that sound so much.
I began learning British English after my dad became besotted with the CNN and the BBC. I was fascinated by the differences between British and American English.
I was thrilled by the British English accent but I didn’t want to speak it because, to me , it requires more energy and clarity. American accent requires you to speak lazily. So I chose the lazy side of speaking. Two years later, I almost failed English because I was using the American English to answer my questions.
After the mock exam, I went back to the dictionary to address the issues. I relearnt the British way of spelling of words, and the British phonology system. It was a short while for me to change all I have learnt . It still affected my WASSCE but it didn’t affect my NECO. I learnt my lessons. I also learnt that the British English is the standard in Nigeria, so we should stick to it.
Well, I began learning the two dialects of the English language. I learnt basically through CNN. I marked the British anchors like Aisha Sesay, Max Foster, Richard Quest, Errol Barnett, Christianne Amanpour and Rosemary Church. I learnt their ways of enunciating words by listening to the ways they do it. I compared how they pronounce words to how I used to pronounce mine. I will dump mine and pick theirs.
Anambra State, while she is from Aguata. She screamed her voice hoarse. She never thought I was Igbo let alone know how to even speak it.By the way, I still have people who are not happy with me for learning fluency to the extent that my Nigerian identity got completely expunged from the way I enunciate words.
Nobody wants you to speak English with your ‘igbotic voice.’ If you do, they will laugh at you. If you speak fluently without compromising your pronunciation, they will say disapprovingly that you are an anglophile.
Obviously they want you to become a city boy or city girl like they are. Well, I chose not to do so. I am King Ifey and I can’t be restricted by any of those standards we set of a language that isn’t even ours.
I love to see you prosper my friend .
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