Mind your language

So the other day i’m watching Guy Ritchie’s sophomore movie SNATCH, the brilliant follow up to his fantastic directorial debut Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Being one of my favorite film, it wasn’t the first time I was watching (more like the gazillionth) .

Aside the usual great dialogue and insane sequences and incredibly memorable characters with bizarre names like Bullet Tooth Tony and Boris the Bullet dodger, I noticed something new, well maybe not new, but a new connection. In the scene where mullet is being interrogated by Tony, I noticed the authenticity in the way he spoke. His twang, slang and idiomatic bang were distinct to him and the area of Britain he was from.

Now, not everyone that watched it may have been able to comprehend what he said, but those that did appreciated it, as it gave the movie flavor and a lot of humor. Different characters with varying accents.  

It then made me think of some of the television shows, and movies over here, where characters speak like they are professional newscasters for the BBC. Now a few years ago, I liked that kind of thing. In my mind I thought, “Yeah, let them see that we are educated and don’t need subtitles”.

That also affected my writing, as I often got feedback that my dialogue sounded “western” . That made me aware, and as I noticed it in other TV shows and movies, it sounded false and inauthentic.

We aren’t American or British, and though accents and speech patterns vary, From the igbo to warri to fulani to yoruba, which all have their idiosyncrasies and unique blend of humor, at the end of the day, we are what we are Nigerians. Our movies need to reflect that, and there are certain conversations that sound a lot sweeter in pidgin, with a tribal accent or even in one’s local language.  From the S.A soaps(scandal,isidingo etc) I’ve seen, they flip-flop between English, Afrikaans and local dialects without sounding like something were amiss.  Fake ways of speaking disrupts the illusion and jerks the viewer’s attention from the drama you are portraying, cos they’re raising a WTH! eyebrow and probably laughing.

While the intention may be to make the TV show or film, as internationally accessible and communicable as possible, we should not get carried away too much, that we start to sound  less and less like ourselves. Authenticity still goes a very long way.

PS- What are your thoughts on this? Are we loosing something of ourselves , or is this just a natural part of the world getting smaller and globalisation? Please comment and feel free to share. Thanks.

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