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My first year at the university was not fun. I was a Yoruba girl battling the mother-tongue interference of that `H` factor which made my English notorious. I often incurred the wrath of my speech class lecturer for changing “his” to “is”, “have” to “aave”, “hate” to “ate” and “eight” to “hate”. I had not thought about this before I borrowed the course from the department of Communication and Language Arts, and there was no time to regret or delete it from my portal. The examination would require a proper speech delivery, and it was very close. Besides, borrowing the course in the first place automatically required that you would offer it until the third year of your programme. My naivety was planning to be my undoing, and I had to avoid this.

A heartfelt session with the lecturer made me to realize that as I had realized that I had a problem, I was a step closer to solving it. Almost everyday -until I was in my third year- I listened to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on my father`s radio which I borrowed and refused to return. To do this effectively, I use an earpiece. I have learned that listening to native speakers of the language will help me a lot. I still do so in my hostel sometimes.

I downloaded three audio dictionaries on my android phone, including the famous Daniel Jones which comes with a hard copy that lies in my handbag and goes everywhere with me. It is good to check up words and their proper pronunciations now and then, I have been instructed. I also tired to speak English all the time, and I soon stopped being afraid that people will spot errors in my pronunciation. When they did, I learned and strived not to repeat the same mistakes.

Remember the speech examination in year one that I talked about? I scored sixty-seven percent in it, and the lecturer commended me after giving me ten thousand Nigerian naira as a way to encourage me “for such surprising and drastic improvement in a short time”.

I have made it more fun by seeing British movies. I just bought the entire James Bond series from a local dealer here. Hearing the native speakers pronounce words from these movies will complement my use of the dictionaries and other means, I hope.

Well, I have not had it all rosy. I usually took part in pronunciation challenges on the WhatsApp page of the speech class, and anyone who failed a task was made to buy recharge cards for two people in the group. I bought more cards on that page than anyone for failing pronunciation tasks. People would just pick on me, especially after the lecturer had honoured me for my examination scores. Others would do it to make a fool of me. This had its advantage though: I hold the record for the person who won the most challenges on that WhatsApp group page. Not bad, right?

The `H` factor still rears its head now and then, but I have become better at making quick adjustments, to the delight of my best friend and room mate. I will take part in a speech contest this year. It is not overconfidence. I hope to embellish my efforts by taking advantage of the speech clinic and rigorous practice it offers.

You can overcome challenges of you want to. Your efforts may not pay off immediately, but they will surely bear fruit if you keep trying.

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