I’m talking in the car with my family as we drive over the Alex Fraser bridge on our way to Christmas dinner. We’ve been talking about this outrageous accent that I can’t help using in most of my basic conversation, and my phone rings. I register the +233 number in the caller id and answer, “Hello!”. As I hang up a few minutes later, I explain to my mother in the next seat that it was Rafik, my good friend from Ghana.
And by the laughter, I surmise that she could tell without me letting her in on the secret. Apparently, besides my accent deepening into obscurity, I raised my voice several decibels and reverted to my Ghanenglish grammar peppered with Dagbani, something that is significantly different from the speech my Canadian-raised family is used to. And now I’m laughing and blushing, and internally cringing because I feel proud to retain vestiges of my Ghanaian communication skills, but wondering how to balance this maintenance of my slightly shifted identity while re-learning how to connect with Canadians. Especially because I need to sound polished and professional at my upcoming interviews for medicine.
And sitting here, 3 months later, I think in my mind of conversations I would have with my housemates, coworkers, and friends if I could have a running commentary of my day. And switching to that once-natural accent is more and more staged. And those words that used to be at the tips of my fingers are slowly slipping away like they were greased with butter as soon as I stepped off the plane. And weirdly enough, my French and Dagbani vocabulary are ridiculously intermingled, and it’s like I’ve progressed only in some weird language that is a garbled mixture that only makes sense in my head. And speaking seems once again, embarrassingly out of reach.