The subject of pronunciation is often glossed over, or visited with reckless abandon by those who are richly endowed academically and the ordinary but humble man or woman in the street looking for his or her daily bread. The spoken English, to them matters not so much, so long as they are heard and the idea or opinion they verbalized, for them, make sense. The majority of Nigerians, in fact, those who English is second language fall in the group of people who ignore pronunciation and do not see it as a big obstacle to attaining perfection in the use of the language of mass communication. Whether in the written or spoken English, I have always encouraged people, especially my students to cultivate the habit of making conscious effort to write right and speak right. The two go together. One cannot excel in the written English and fail in the spoken word. There have been occasions where people are denied jobs or contracts owing to their inability to speak proper English, to put it plainly. The story of a University don who went abroad in search of greener pasture but was cut short when his students rose against him, largely because of his poor communication skill is a big lesson for us all. No one could fault the man’s academic records, according to the report, but failed to impress the students because he bluntly refused to take lessons in Use of English and Communication Skill.
Our politicians and VIPs-Very Important Persons should take note and do the needful, go for communication skills lessons or hire someone to polish your spoken English. The cliché ‘you can’t give what you don’t have,’ is instructive. Don’t procrastinate, do it now, avoid being ridiculed or laughed at when addressing the crowd. Our lesson this week, emphasis is on pronunciation, particularly for those familiar words we come across every day, whether in the business circle, crime or any other sector of the economy. We have plenty of them including some English names you may likely come by. The English purists and masters have given us the clue to sound right in our interaction with members of our community and the larger audience. In fact, the dictionaries and other handy reference materials are there to guide us but how often do we spare time to check the dictionary or books on pronunciation, such as Daniel Jones to get it right. I am sure not many of us do. We have litanies of excuses to give why it is difficult to be tied down or fall back on the dictionary or any other reference book in order to place the right stresses where they should be or add value to the letters, when we speak up the words.
Take note of these English names, for example as it is pronounced and do well to master them: McGrath, Cockburn, Salisbury, St. John, Holburn, Willes, Leicester, Swanwick, Chisholm, Chiswick and Cholmondelay. They are correctly pronounced macgraw, Co’burn, Solzb’ry, Sinjen, Ho’burn, Wilz, Lester, Swonick, Chizim, Chizik and Chumly. Aren’t these names enough headaches to verbalize? Think again, digest them to speak safe when coming face-to-face with the English masters and purists or the experts in communication skill. Similarly, the popular van used in conveying suspected criminals to the correctional facilities in the country, Black Maria is pronounced ‘black muh-ry-uh’ and so for ‘pariah,’ an outcast or one who is treated with disdain is verbalized ‘puh-ry-uh.’ Recall the dark days of military regime of General Sani Abacha, when the West declared Nigeria a pariah state, denying her of international assistance or aids of any kind owing to what they regarded as lack of transparency and dictatorial rule of the late general. Regime, for example is pronounced ‘ray-gime,’ also, ‘grand prix,’ ‘bombing,’ ‘falcons,’ ‘granite,’ ‘en masse,’ ‘furore,’ ‘suite,’ ‘status quo,’ ‘Hades,’ ‘epitome,’ and more to come as it concerns pronunciation. In the meantime, take note of the right pronunciation of the words listed, ‘grond pree,’ ‘boming,’ omitting the letter ‘b’ when pronouncing the word; ‘fawl-k’ns,’ ‘gra-nit,’ ‘on mass,’ ‘fyoo-rori,’ ‘sweet,’ ‘stay-tuhss kwoh,’ ‘hay-deez,’ ‘ipituh-mi.