Talking to family and friends in Nigeria

As you know I’m Nigerian by parentage: both my parents are Yoruba. I even lived in Nigeria for three years (between the ages of three and six), but I have lived in Canada for the past 24 years. And in these 24 years (a scary number that makes me feel quite old), I have visited Nigeria twice: the first time was seven years after moving to Canada and the second time was fifteen years later (last year). This last visit was the best, and I know my visits will only get better and hopefully not as much time will pass between them (by God’s grace).

Since the last visit, I’ve been corresponding with family members and friends by phone and email more regularly. And one thing I notice is that I communicate slightly differently with these friends and family members. It’s not deliberate, and I’m not talking about my accent or use of pidgin or Yoruba (with the exception of my maternal grandma, they usually tell me to just speak English, hmmph!).

So what I mean are things like the following:

  • Instead of “What did you study (in school)?” I’ll say What did you read in school?
  • I’ll refer to a cell phone as a “set” and a laptop to a “system”
  • When the phone card I use to call Naija is about to run out (let me recommend this one, which gives you a minimum of 35 minutes for $2.50…tell me if you have a better one), I’ll say I don’t have any more credit.
  • I’ll send my regards to the parents and siblings of the person I’m speaking to, something I don’t usually do when talking to other people. If I was talking to someone and wondered how their mom/brother/dog was, I’d ask about that person or animal specifically. Now everyone gets “my regards”.
  • Mention of NEPA always comes up as does reference to the “network” being bad when the person I’m talking to online disappears.
  • I’m not sure if it’s the topics that are discussed but the need to exclaim “Thank God!” in response to good things and recognize God’s faithfulness is very strong, as is the need to say “Amen” in response to any good wish that is uttered.
  • I’ll sometimes type “takia” in closing an email or chat.

Nothing big, but those were my recent observations. What about you? Does talking to family or friends back home (or if you’re in Nigeria, does talking to family or friends abroad) cause you to communicate differently without doing so deliberately? If so, what are the differences you notice?

23 thoughts on “Talking to family and friends in Nigeria

  1. great post!

    whenever I talk to friends who are in Senegal, I forget that you have to ask how is everyone, the cat, the house..ok i am exaggerating but you know what i mean..before i can say why i am calling

  2. nice post..I smiled while reading this lol because I totally do all of the above as well….sending regards to mom , dad, spouse of the person I am chatting with even if sometimes I do not have a definite relationship with said person and ofcourse the ubiquitous thank God or amen accordingly in response to whatever was beingsaid … I guess it is one of those things that uniquely make up nigerian (african)culture.

  3. lol.. the post made me smile. when you use the terms they are used to, i think it makes them more comfortable with you. like my roomates would always say that the way i talk to my church members is different from the way i talk to my roomates. so i tell them it's about 'church terms' and 'room terms'

  4. I was criticized once for not speaking Cantonese like a native Cantonese speaker. It wasn't my accent that was criticized, but my wording. I asked for my cousin on the phone, and said something like "Hi, this is Cynthia. Is Cousinsname there, please?" In casual Cantonese, you're supposed to say "Hi, Cynthia. Is Cousinsname there, please?" Well, this Jooksing (CBC (Canadian born Chinese)/Banana) never knew that you were supposed to say that! My mom thought what I did was weird.

    I actually mentioned this in my other blog, Jooksing Life:

  5. i guess it's an innate passion to let the people that you are talking to back home to realise that you might not live in nigeria but you are still one of them.

  6. How bodi?

    Ok, I definetly bought the wrong ultra which gave me 6 whole minutes on a $5 card! It was called Ultra Vox.

  7. How u dey sweetie?

    i have vonage, it's only $5 additional for unlimited talk to naija (uk and most of europe are included in the base plan)

    my recurring phrases exclusive to naija are: it's a lie! abeg talk correct joh! and having to think before saying tylenol or paracetamol

  8. He he… I call it my swtich on and switch off moment. It is normal to switch lingo and mannerism when talking to relatives. For me, I always add 'oooh' at the end of every sentence…which would annoy a non-Nigerian.

  9. @sherri i called vonage, and they said that was not possible (to get unlimited talk time to Nigeria) how did you end up doing it?

  10. Well most of my friends here in the UK and hard core naija so I find that there is real switch when talking to the ones back home. Except the NEPA bit of course and if it's my dad I ask for everyone living in the area – lol.


    Can you post a voice recording of you speaking yoruba, I am quite curious to hear you speak.

    I promise I will TRY not to laugh.

  11. girl I love this post hahaha its so true ! I am trying to catch up on reading ur blog i wish it was added to my blogs i follow!

    anyways babes excellent post!

  12. lovely post as usual.

    the part that gets me is when someone sends u money/gift, u have to remember to thank them for the next three times or so u talk to them on the phone to show u REALLY appreciate it, and u have to inform ur folks to "greet" them as well. not sure if it's just a yoruba thing.

  13. First time commenting….Been stalking your blog forever.

    One thing i know for sure…Is dont ever ask dem how they doing…was they gonna come with with all d problems in dis world…

  14. lmao @ kabi!!!! Jesu christi…. this post made me laugh… you're soo right

    When i'm talking to my cousins abt skul they'll ask… which year are u in now…. 200 or 300 level..? lol!

    later luv!!


  15. Lol..They call it Nigerian English…I love Nigerian English and the fact that if spoken to a Non-Nigerian the person goes huh?? Too funny i tell you

  16. i actually just switch accents….Before, when talking to friends i used to get "are you sure you are in america?"

    because my accent and the words i used didn't change for the longest time…i don't think i do such a good job now!

  17. Naija ppl also say… "she then said, or I then said" also, instead of.. "I went to pick up my books" it'd be "I went to pick my books"

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