Are you looking to improve your diction, perhaps because you have noticed a deficiency, or would you like to improve for the sake of your profession? Many Nigerians shrug off flaws in their spoken English citing that it isn’t their local language. That isn’t a baseless argument. There are some people who even insist that there is a Nigerian English, wow. The problem is that we don’t get tested on ‘Nigerian English’ in Nigerian examinations like JAMB and SSCE. And sooner or later you’re going to find yourself in a situation where it’s important to speak well. For those of us who care, here are some simple tips which I usually give to trainee broadcast journalists.
Watch Foreign Productions
Watch everything from news to movies and television shows. It’s a simple trick but it works better than carrying around any of those pronunciation books that journalists sometimes have. Watching television is natural so it works. You just have to be deliberate, and you will be amazed at what you will observe. You will notice conventions that you didn’t before and you will see common mistakes that people in your circle make. If you download television shows, then download the English subtitles for each episode as well. You will be quite surprised by the many things you will learn. Some people waste time arguing over the difference between American English and British English. Ask such people to name instances where they had a problem because they used the two interchangeably.
Quit Pidgin English
This one is tough but effective. Pidgin is based on shortcuts and people who speak pidgin a lot weaken their English vocabulary. It’s the reason why a lot of politicians use recycled phrases when the microphone is thrown in their faces. They’ve been expressing themselves with shortcuts so they can’t reach into their heads and find the mote juste (see what I did there?). It’s not that pidgin is bad. It’s just that you need sufficient practice in any language if you want to be great at using it. I reckon it’s also the reason why a lot of Nollywood actors might seem like they are bad actors. A man who is used to expressing shock by saying, “Chei” isn’t going to sound convincing when reading a script that has him saying, “oh my goodness”.
We all know this one. Anyone who used to have a reading habit will confess that it did something for their English. Apart from expanding one’s vocabulary, it also helps one to get used to sentence constructions and unique phrases. Let’s not even get started on the other benefits of having a reading habit.