The Power of Language


By Akakan Umoh

I was scheduled to travel the next day to my place of assignment. So, I went to a salon in Uyo Akwa Ibom capital to get a new hairdo. While in this salon, a mallam, (we call them Aboki in my place) carrying wristwatches and other female accessories stopped by the salon to advertise his wares. Nobody paid him attention.

Yeah, they did glance at his wares, but they were not interested. The salon owner told him to go and come back next time. The man did something that shocked everyone there. He spoke our native language. He said Di dep original nkanika meaning “Come and buy an original wristwatch.”

This simple sentence made the women pay attention to him. Some of them threw questions at him in our native language, asking him how original his wristwatches were, and so on. He answered in the language (although he made a lot of blunders). The women were impressed. The madam’s stylist bought earrings from him. Another told him to come back the next day.

While another made orders for a loved one of hers. That was it! The power of understanding language made those uninterested customers to suddenly become interested in the seller and what he was selling. Lesson: If you are doing business in a foreign land, try and learn and master the language of the people there.

It must not necessarily be everything you have to learn. At least the few common words that are used daily. It might just be the tool that you need to win the hearts of your customers.

Akakan, a graduate of Sociology/Anthropology, is the daughter of Israel