Google+ Authentic Parenting: Accents

Monday, October 25, 2010


This post was written as a submission to the Bilingual blog Carnival. If you want to find out more abou the Carnival, visit their page and sign up for the newsletter.

When we knew we were going to have a baby, I was terrified that - in time - our child would pick up the local accent and expressions. Can you imagine a little white child one day arriving in a school in Belgium and speaking French with an Ivorian or Cameroonian accent? That's completely unheard of.
You must know that the French Ivorians speak is nowhere near what's spoken in France. It takes a lot of decipering and immersion to actually understand what they are saying.

So we said we would never get a nounou (what we call a nanny in these parts of the world) and we would certainly never have our child in school with a local teacher. When it comes to playing with the local kids... we were undecided.

We moved to Ivory Coast (after havig lived in Cameroon for almost two years) when my daughter was 8 months old. Disregarding what we had agreed even before she was born, my daughter took to our cook immediately. She was always smiling at her, later crawling to her and the plain running into the kitchen to go play. So she adopted our cook as her part time nanny. I must say it came at a right time, because when she started alking, it was almost impossible to take her on the hour drive to the shops and then in and out of shops once a week.

But back to the accents. My daughter speaks her French fluently. She is learning new words every day but she speaks full sentences and has an amazingly elaborate vocabulary (especially since she's bilingual, French is her first language). She doesn't have a pronounced African accent, but she uses a lot of Ivorian expressions and catch phrases.
This does cause some confusion when we are in Belgium. My inlaws - who also speak French to her - often haven't got a clue what she is telling them.

But in the end, this matters little. we all carry our cultural background with us in our language. Maybe my daughter will have an Ivorian accent - which I doubt because we'll be moving to another country in a couple of months. Maybe she'll have a Congolese accent. Maybe she'll end up speaking English wih a Liberian accent (wouldn't that be cute... I like African English as much as I dislike African French). What matters is that she speaks the language. She can speak to the locals, and she can speak to European people as well.
In all honesty, after two years here in Ivory Coast, even my husband and I have adopted some of their expressions.

C'est quoi meme?



  1. I like your idea that we carry our cultural identity in our accent. Each dropped consonant and local expression tells the story of our linguistic history. I'll remember that when I am fretting about our local accent issues!

  2. So true! For me, accents and local sayings that I've pick up along the way are almost like postcards; in that they conjure up, as I speak, memories of cherished people and places.


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