Battling with Language in the Far-Away Land of Minneapolis

by Promise Okeke - Posts (5). Posted Friday, October 7th, 2011 at 8:56 am

Am I the one? Am I the Promise who promised himself his Nigerian accent was not going to take a slip? I never would have believed I could so easily twist my tongue in an American twang.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

cat yawning


You might be asking, “How has the experience been so far?” I have been doing well – yawning like 50 times a day (not exaggerating). I haven’t slept for a total of 12 hours for the past three days I have been in Minneapolis. Could it be heat? The excitement? Maybe you can help me with that.

Tonight is one reason.

It’s 11:39 pm here, and I can picture you forming a question like, “Why is this dude not sleeping at this time?” Well, I have been asking myself that question too; but you’ll laugh when you find out why.

Since 7 pm I have been staging a comedy right here in my room. You should have been here to see me pacing around my room, throwing words into the air and trying to figure out if my intonation is getting more Americanized. It is pretty funny, right? But what do you expect when I have to repeat myself three times before I get a nod to indicate I was understood (you can figure out how exhaustive that could be; it is like I talk till I run out of breath before I can make five sentences).

My first battle with language was to stop my Nigerian tongue from always putting a sir or a madam before saying an elder’s name. In this place people usually go by their first name; like you say “Jim” and not “Mr. Jim.” That’s weird! It was tough to call an old man (probably my grandfather’s age) “Mike” the other day. Well, that’s how things are done in the land of “freedom.”

Don’t be surprised that I wrote freedom; everyone here is free to do whatsoever he wants, wear whatever he cares, act however he finds fit. And if you dare ask anyone why, you should expect to be told off – possibly in language I can’t mention here.

The ice cream freezer at a supermarket in Washington, DC

Ice cream for sale at a supermarket (Photo by Jihye Choi)

What’s the time now? Oh, it’s 12:03 pm. I’ve to go to bed now so I can wake up early for my 8 am cross-country practice. Being a college athlete ain’t a lazy man’s thing. You can tell especially when you’ve ran 14 miles on a hot afternoon.  But then, how can I drop my pen without telling you about the western food.

Ah! I am tired of sandwiches, pizzas, cookies, milk, chocolate, strawberry ice-cream

I didn’t mention chicken because I got tired of it from home. I went into a feast of chicken two months before I traveled, thinking I could get fatter by eating those roasted things sitting dead on sticks. However, that turned out to be a bad gamble. All that chicken did nothing more than prevent me from eating better chicken here - and spray my face with some tiny oily bumps (I hope you understand what I mean by ‘tiny oily bumps,’ because I would rather not say the real name).

I must force myself to sleep now, and I hope I get a six hour stretch for the first time since I came here.

Good night.

3 Responses to “Battling with Language in the Far-Away Land of Minneapolis”

  1. Simba says:

    I totally relate when it comes to the food aspect.African food is the best!No joke :)

  2. [...] found most difficult to get used to (yelling and oversharing). We also share stories about the problems with having an accent, and share some tips for getting rid of it.  Plus, Thuy tells us about what it’s like to [...]

  3. [...] [Read more about struggling to be understood with an unfamiliar accent] [...]

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