Sunday, 12 March 2017


English is my first language. Though my father is Idoma, my mother Igbira and my birthplace a chiefly Hausa region, English was and is my first language.

I have studied English as a prerequisite right from nursery school until I dropped the book I was just reading.

I used to get turned off by people who didn't speak well, especially if they were in the eye of the media. I could write a person off if they mispronounced a word. A whole speech could mean absolutely nothing to me if the speaker’s diction and grammar was not up to par. I used to correct people in my head while having a conversations with them. At a point, when a person spoke wrongly, I would flinch; literally!

I knew I had an 'r' problem but I felt I was better at speaking correctly than most people. I used to pride myself on speaking well until a few weeks ago.

A respected trainer critiqued my spoken grammar so much so that I almost cried in class. She told me how my word pronunciation was fair at best and why I needed to go back to the books. The only thing that kept the tears in was the last vestiges of pride that I desperately clung to.

When I got home, and looked beyond the sting of the criticism, I realized that my spoken language started getting bad when I started speaking a whole lot of Pidgin English. To make matters worse, the American English depicted in the kind of movies I loved was not helping me. It took a total stranger to point out the fact that I had no reason to boast in something I wasn't really good at. Talk about humbling that pride!

To many, it would seem like nothing. But to anyone who knows that a media person has to sound right at all times, you know that particular criticism was well needed. Every time I had been wrong in my pronunciation, someone listening also flinched! That thought alone had my skin crawling all; what with being a perfectionist and all.

So, I'm back to the drawing board and learning my language again...even if it means from the scratch.

As public speakers, the onus lies more on us to be correct in our pronunciations and sentence constructions. We cannot afford to mix our tenses and fuddle our grammar. This is especially so if you are a media personality because the media is in a better position to educate the public than any other sector in the world. Nobody wants to listen to a public speaker who does all the ‘tiauns’ and the ‘gbagauns’. Everyone wants to listen to someone who is flawless in sentence delivery and who has a great commanding diction.

If you know you have a problem, you need to work on it and if possible, eliminate it.

We are called out to stand before Kings and not just mere men. We are also called out to influence whole communities just by talking. When I do stand before the monarch of the United Kingdom, the summit of world leaders that make up the United Nations etc., I want to speak as flawlessly as they do.

Let us go back to the drawing board and refine our speech!

1 comment:

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