Funke Treasure: Pronunciation guide came because of words mispronunciation on air
Funke Treasure Durodola is a renowned broadcast journalist, trainer, leadership coach, author, writer, media strategist, and a girl-child advocate. She was an Adjunct Lecturer in Radio Broadcasting at Pan Atlantic University, a one-time General Manager of Radio One, President, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and guest lecturer on Black ‘Englishes’ Class ‘Nigeria Pidgin English’, at the University of Florida. The Assistant Director of Programmes at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) recently launched two books on pronunciation skills for Second Language Speakers of the English Language. The first book is titled, The Clergy, while the second is The Spoken Word Industry. She recently spoke with Arts editors in Lagos on her new books.
GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR was there.
Congratulations on your new books. What informed the idea of the books?
Thanks very much. I moonlight as a speech coach after official hours. I realised early enough in the practice that there was a need for a text that would condense all that that they’ll need to know for accelerated growth. I wanted to put into the hands of my clients a resource manual that would serve them post training. In the bid to do that, I started seeing a greater need for such a book for the larger good.
Writing two books at the same time must be very challenging, how did you achieve that feat?
I’m still trying to get used to it myself, because I set out to write a book. However, feedback received after releasing the sample book necessitated a second, which I was reluctant to do because of the enormous work involved. It is never easy writing a book; sufficient is the challenge of getting one right. I mean you want to start from the writing itself, without electricity; you power your generator to write. I do not like noise, I had to get used to writing in a neighbourhood with a cacophony of generator-induced noise. And then, the constant traffic that leaves one exhausted. Those were the most challenging part of getting the books out.
In one of the books you wrote extensively on some common pronunciation errors made by broadcasters on air, why did you decide to take on that aspect of the media?
Look, I got tired of a ubiquitous development, of correcting presenters about mispronunciation of words. Some of them would even look at you as if you were impossibly fastidious. In my active days on air, one feared the disappointing look from a superior when a word was mispronounced. Nowadays, some of these presenters go on a shaming campaign, to whoever cared to listen how you were constantly picking on them out of hatred. How do you attempt to read the news without being familiar with the pronunciation of words, proper stress placement and word grouping, knowing that the likes of the late Veronica Osawere would be listening? How do you even claim to be a professional when you make so many mistakes on air? Who put you on air to start with? So there are mispronunciations everywhere one turned, even from the gatekeepers in the Spoken Word industry. Secondly, there are blind arguments from people who haven’t bothered to check the pronouncing dictionary. When a listener calls into tell a presenter that the correct word is ‘preyor’, not ‘pressure’, you know then that we have a challenge to deal with.
All through the books, I progressively kept explaining and justifying; yet I wrote a chapter that has more than 120 words we pronounce wrongly, yet I didn’t exhaust them. For those in public speaking this is critical, just because the word challenge is pronounced starting with ‘cha’ for instance does not make chaos become ‘cha-hose’. It’s quite ridiculous, and really we need to deal with our huge ego that constantly gets in the way, and learn to speak the English Language right. I’m not saying go acquire an accent; we are second language speakers, so, you don’t need to be under pressure, our educated English is fine.
There have been complaints about broadcasters using slangs on air. What is your take on this?
It depends, on what radio or TV programmes are the slangs being used and what the context of usage is. Some programmes are light hearted, and when on continuity sessions, one can be creative. I have heard expressions like, ‘in the abroad’ many times on air and on multiple radio stations. At first, I thought it was a joke between two presenters, then I realised that it was not; it was an acceptable slang amongst millennials that found its way into broadcast language. Sometime in the immediate past, such slangs would be frowned upon, but at the risk of being seen as rigid and inflexible, one may allow this, when however it becomes a regular expression, then one needs to consider critically the role of the media to educate.
Can you tell us the difference if there are any between an On-Air Personality (OAP) and a broadcaster?
The very idea of differentiating between the two shows that we have a problem in our hands. I probably would have been shocked if I hadn’t had an encounter with a young man recently, who relayed to me how they had argued endlessly about the difference between a presenter, an OAP and a broadcaster at a famous campus radio. And they had argued heatedly. One of them had insisted that OAPs are the newest contemporary professionals – the new school who don’t need a script, while presenters are in- between as they sometimes use scripts, give time checks and broadcasters are the old school ones, the prim and proper, I suppose, how so laughable, scary and disappointment all in one breath.
You have been working at FRCN for more than a decade? What lessons have you learnt?
Now that would take a whole book to distill. We are talking of almost two decades, nineteen years of work in a government parastatal. I would do an autobiographical work to address that someday. Suffice to say that we need a civil service reform in this country, workers should not be left to the whims and caprices of leaders, there are scores of talented people in the Nigerian civil service whose talents are stifled, and there should be evaluation of leaders and their leadership styles.
What is your staying power as a woman in the broadcast media?
Re-invention. I constantly re-invent myself to adapt to the changing times, technology and resources needed to compete and stay ahead of competition in all that I do. I try.
How easy was it for you to climb the corporate ladder at FRCN as a woman?
I had many competent women around me in the professional space within the FRCN then. They were visible, and had agency. They didn’t need to sleep with anyone to be relevant in the system, and they worked hard. The men also were decent, responsible and cared more about consensual relationships. It was a warm, professional space to work and thrive.
Aside from publishing these two new books, what other things do you do?
I’m a John Maxwell coach, trainer and speaker. I will be expanding my affiliation with the global John Maxwell Team. My day job is broadcasting, as a broadcast executive, my tasks are administrative nowadays, I have thus focused more on training and teaching in the areas where I have excelled in the course of my career; production, presentation, reporting, newsroom leadership, media relations, and leadership.
What is always on your mind as an author?
Knowledge sharing, being the voice of reason and re-direction for people, being a solution provider, x-raying societal imbalance through my writings, encouraging people to be the best they can be, and letting them see that they are possible.
Which authors (s) have inspired you?
They are an eclectic mix really, nationally and internationally, academic and non academic. They include, Maya Angelou, D. O. Fagunwa, Prof Wole Soyinka, Prof. Femi Osofisan, Flora Nwapa, Chinua Achebe, Stephen Covey, john Fiske and John Maxwell. I like the detailed research in the writings of Malcolm Gladwell. A long list of contemporary Nigerian writers like Chimamanda, Myne Whitman, Toni Kan, Jude Idada and many more.
What is the next big step for Funke Treasure Durodola
I started a media-mentoring programme 10 years ago, long before it became a trend to be a mentor. I have run it as a social enterprise, I’ll consolidate on that and the other things I do, especially the leadership trainings and mentorship.
You changed your name in the new books to Anike Ade Funke Treasure, what informed the change?
I felt I needed an independent identity as a writer. All the names are officially mine and on all my documents really.
Do you have time to relax? How do you relax?
I watch stage plays, feel good movies, go out with friends and laugh out loud with Yoruba movies. I visited a dance club the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it; perhaps, I should return and go the whole hog, which should be fun. I’m forever open to anything that offers the promise of adventure and fun. I won’t try sky or scuba diving though. No, that’s extreme sports to me. I love to travel, whether locally or internationally or just drive a long distance alone.
Are you an exercise freak? There was a time you were active on Facebook about your routine, do you still have time to do that?
I did a 21-day challenge on Facebook in 2018 and maintained the routine for a while. Once in a while I post but essentially I do a three-day weekly regimen now. Quite frankly, I didn’t realise how influential the Facebook live I did was then until I started seeing more people in the estate where I live populating the streets in the morning, and more women jogging and walking, especially on Saturdays. And then I met complete strangers who told me how I inspired them to start exercising too by just watching me struggle with it and complete it on Facebook.
And at work, colleagues would laugh at the notes I wrote as well and discuss the characters with me; and then encourage me. I suppose more people enjoyed the commentaries I wrote and looked forward to my encounters during the exercise. I wasn’t an exercise freak at the beginning; I was just stretching myself beyond limits. It soon became a habit I looked forward to with excitement. I exercise for health’s sake, and I try to eat healthy, no sugar, just honey. Low carbs diet, pretty difficult in a society where our favourite meals are an overload of carbohydrate.