I do understand that a child’s mind is a tabula rasa– a mind that’s not affected by experiences and impressions– that magnetizes and exhibits new things; right or wrong. This simple logic explains why parents and guardians are sometimes careful and watchful when a child starts forming habits.
My three-year old little cousin got back from school one day and started pronouncing about three new words differently from what I’ve always known: ‘father’, ‘water’ and ‘work’. For ‘father’ she said ‘fede’, ‘water’ ‘wete’ and ‘work’ ‘wek’. And seriously, I was stunned. First, I was amazed by the fact that she could remember what she learnt at school very well. Second, I was scared because some teacher was leading her down the garden path. I love good accents and I appreciate people who speak good English with good accents. But presently, in the Nigeria of today, possessing an accent is gradually eroding the essence of communication which is efficacity and clarity.
A quick review of ‘accent’ indicates, conclusively, that it’s a distinctive, unique quality possessed by individuals of a particular area and exhibited in the pronunciation of their language. Thus, by default, every country has their own unique accents. However, the introduction of foreign (American or British) accent acquisition, popularly known as diction, into the education system at the primary level is quite commendable but its negative impact may override its possitivities if not properly controlled and monitored. As it appears, most individuals and organizations that get involved with this are probably graduates of few days training on speech sounds and accent acquisition. With that, they wreak havoc on innocent kids, doing more harm than good.
School owners and managers are also major contributors to this accent menace. They want quick results but fail to realize that foreign accent development in kids who live outside the natural habitat of such language takes a while to yield good results. Else, kids will only succeed in tongue twisting but fail in stressing and pronouncing words correctly.
The weird blabbings of most celebrities, television VJs and radio DJs even compound my worries considering their influence on kids that listen to them. What is extremely worrisome is the manner in which they combine accents and even lose track of their tenses and lexicon in standard varieties. A little British, a little American, heavy Nigerian and you are completely lost, you don’t know where to place them. Though, there’s no denying the fact that some of them are fantastic speakers with near native speaker accents.
It’s very great to develop near native or native speaker accents in kids early enough in an environment like ours. It’s also pertinent to know that we could have our own sound inventory and speak English with our own local flavour anywhere in the world without feeling inferior to native speakers of English if and only if a legislation could back it up to make it official in the country.
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