Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do You Have an Accent?

If you are like me, with deep roots in Africa, you probably have heard Americans say you have an accent. Read more about this here.

10 comments:

SIMON KITURURU said...

In Africa, no one asks foreigners to speak English like Africans.
I have asked myself that question many times. Thanx Professor.

Mbele said...

Thanks, Mr. Kitururu, for your comment. I wrote this article primarily for Africans who live in the USA, where the question of accent crops up all the time. The article continues to generate much excitement and comment. It seems, for example, to empower non-native speakers of English from different parts of the world who live in the USA. From the "African News Journal," where it was originally published, the article has been picked up by several publications and blogs, and I am gratified, and am particularly delighted by the thoughtful comments I see here:
click here and type mbele in the search window

Mzee wa Changamoto said...

Thanks Professor. With my "little" thinking of this, i think it's a "two-way" problem. First is from our people who believe they have to sound like americans to live their life. And that's why they jump on things and words that "hide" their accent like curses. But in real life i've learned that you really don't need to sound like them to be understood. People like Koffi Anna didn't have any trouble to communivate with them as a Secretary General and others too. But in the other side, it's like anywhere else where people who "pretend" not to understand or make fun of other's accent are mostly UNEDUCATED. So i don't think i need to lose my accent to please uneducated person and LOSE MY IDENTITY. The way speak is connected to my way of life and i'm not going to lose that. I can work on my Grammar and Comprehension but not my accent. They can take it or leave it. By the way i'm working on my Grammar right now, so pardon my errors if any.

Alvin said...

Dear Prof,

I am very delighted by your article. The article touches the right issue at the right time and place. The word “accent” has always been a “thorn” to most foreigners in US, your article clarify everything.

Thanks again Prof. for your positive contribution

Alvin

Jaduong Metty said...

Prof,

Thanks for a wonderful piece. Well, I have found myself a nice little response when the question fo accent crops up. I simply tell the other person that my accent is just fine, except that they are the one with an accent.

It works like a charm!

In a true sense, anyone who does not sound like me, including a Midwestern American, who, in actual sense, sounds a bit strange to a Southern American, has an accent.

Mbele said...

In writing the original article, I sought to make some points that could not be contested, because they are established linguistic facts, while also leaving room for further discussion, especially from the perspective of the social role of language. I am happy that other people are making such useful and interesting contributions to the issue. Mzee wa Changamoto's reference to Kofi Annan is striking, in my view, and most appropriate. Kofi Annan exemplifies very well the ideal I was trying to articulate: his mastery of English is superb, yet he speaks naturally, as a Ghanaian. As a student at Macalester College, here in Minnesota, Kofi Annan excelled as an orator and a member of the debate team.

Absolutely Awesome Things (AAT) said...

Thanks Professor for your excellent article.I couldn't resist I had to put it on my blog for more people to read.I usually wonder why most people are not proud of their origin!To me having your accent and not trying to change it shows how proud you are of who you are. Prof., your work is inspiring, I am looking forward to reading one of your book as soon as I receive it from lulu.com

Mbele said...

Hello AAT, thanks for your message. You might not believe this, but some days ago, I discovered your blogs as I was browsing through the Kagera forum. From an artistic point of view, your blogs are a feast for the eyes, and they present fresh perspectives on things. I like, for example, your advocacy of recycling.

If you liked my little article so much, I know you will like the book even more. In addition to www.lulu.com, the book is available from info@africonexion.com.

Absolutely Awesome Things (AAT) said...

Professor,thanks for the compliments. It is always nice to get the feedback and even nicer for the positive ones!Thanks I appreciate!

Subi said...

Over the weekend I heard a friend of mine (from Tanzania) telling an American woman (in a rather an upset tone) this, '...because I have an accent, it doesn't mean I am not intelligent'. I said to myself, 'right on sister'. Some Americans (unlike most Tanzanians, well at least me) associate accent with intelligence as if to say, if you can't rhyme in either of our West or East vs N & S vs Black & White accents, you are not smart enough. They, themselves have divisions in this. I guess it remains a part of human nature to always look for a fault in anything. We are human beings, we are not perfect - even though some 'other human beings' believe we have to.