By Oluwatobi Opusunju
We have all been irritated at some point by someone who talk so loudly on the phone, whether in public or in a private gathering. And this seems to be so common among Nigerians even though an average mobile phone is equipped with a powerful radio-voice transmitter that lets one talk at least 1.6 times less than one would in a face to face conversation.
A simple research conducted by IT Edge News on two typical Lagos ‘danfo’ buses and a BRT bus shows that out of the 20 people that received a call or put a call through, about 17spoke at the top of their lungs.And did I also mention the other day I overheard someone’s conversation while on the phone two cars away? So,it will suffice to say out of every 10 Nigerians, about seven speak at the topmost pitch of their voice when making a call. True? Yes!
So why do Nigerians talk loud on phone? Where did we ever get the orientation from? Or do we just assume that since there are no wires one has to just talk louder, so our voice can be transmitted through the air? Or is it just a trait that comes with the Nigerian identity? Maybe, maybe not.
“Environmental factors such as noise pollution could also be a factor why Nigerians talk so loud on phone.”
While this report is not trying to justify that Nigerians are the only ones who seem to have such bad phone etiquette, one will agree that it’s a very common trait among us and it seems we just happen to do it the most unlike any other place —Nigerians no dey ever carry last. And perhaps, our vocal cords are just uniquely adorned!
According to research, there are two technological factors responsible for why one shouts‘unnecessarily’ while on the phone —the presence of Automatic Gain Control (AGC) and the absence of Side Tone.AGC is a voice-operated gain-adjusting device or volume-operated gain-adjusting device for microphone amplification while Side Tone is a feedback in a telephone receiver which is in particular the reproduction of the user’s own voice.
While old-fashioned landline telephones come with Side Tones pre-installed, so that when you speak into the mouthpiece of your phone, a small part of the signal is sent to your earpiece to let you know your speaking level and probably adjust it. Modern (mobile) phones are equipped with an AGC circuit that controls the signal from the mouthpiece automatically so you don’t have to shout into a mobile phone to be heard at the other end.
“Being loud over the phone may be an irritating act but albeit, it may be cultural. Notably among West Africans, emotions are most expressed in high pitch.”
Now,here is the trick.If you talk at a normal speaking level on your mobile phone, it wouldn’t do much. If you shout, it reduces the signal. But whispering into the mouthpiece automatically amplifies the signal for effective and clear communication.
However, according to Mr. Bayegun Olawale, a psychologist in Lagos, environmental factors such as noise pollution could also be a factor why Nigerians talk so loud on phone.
In a place like Lagos state, Nigeria’s commercial center of an estimated population of 21 million people from different parts of the country, one can hardly move one meter away from noise; it’s mostly everywhere you go—on the street, bus,park, church, mosque, school, market, home—everywhere.
According to the Lombard effect, speakers often have an involuntary tendency to increase their vocal effort when speaking in a noisy environment to enhance the audibility of their voice. So, could this be the Lombard effect playing out? With the heavy noise pollution in Lagos, residents have developed a natural tendency to raise their voice to match the noise levels around them. But what about less noisy cities like Jos or Calabar or Kaduna, why do Nigerian speak so loud on the phone?
Mr. Bayegun believes Nigerians over time have subconsciously developed the bad trait from trying to talk above all the noise that emanates from our environment, both at home and outside; that even in a calm and quiet environment, Nigerians still talk loud on phone as it seems to have become an integral part of us.
“I think the unregulated noise pollution (from generators, religious houses, bus stops, event centres, markets, etc) has also contributed to it. People generally have to shout to be heard and it has become a bad habit,” he said.
Another expert said “Nigeria has a high level of noise pollution – people increase the volume of their TV sets to drown out the noise of the generators but don’t turn it down when having a conversation, no distinct separation between residential and commercial areas and so on.”
However, research shows that even in situations where there is a lot of background noise, one does not have to shout to be heard on the other end. All one has to do is bring the phone mouthpiece closer to the mouth and the relative level of one’s voice to the background level will increase automatically.
“I always have network issues. I make a lot of calls daily and most times when people call or I make a call, it gets hard to hear what the person is saying. It happens even when the call is between same network lines.”
Meanwhile, looking at the quality of mobile network service in Nigeria also, one will agree that unstable network service on the part of the telcos could also be a factor to look at. An Average telephone user in Nigeria has at least two telephone lines to jiggle the glitches that come with the mobile telecoms services.
Mathew Afolorunsho, a marketing communications expert in Ibadan, Oyo State’s capital revealed that he had to buy two mobile lines to be able to connect and talk hitch free with his business partners, family and friends as a result of the bad network experience and he practically switches between two different lines.
“I always have network issues. I make a lot of calls daily and most times when people call or I make a call, it gets hard to hear what the person is saying. It happens even when the call is between same network lines. So, most of the time one is forced to speak loud to be heard. Although, I have two lines which enables me switch easily. But even at that, one can’t escape it,” he said.
Gabriel Onyechukwu, a student said “with the bad network one is experiencing in the country and the fear of airtime being wasted, one cannot but speak out loud to be heard.”
“It’s better to be loud enough than air time being wasted while trying to act posh,” he added jokingly.
Being loud over the phone may be an irritating act but albeit, it may be cultural. Notably among West Africans, emotions are most expressed in high pitch. We demonstrate a lot of exertions in how we relate with our partners or relations. If in a corner of the street, a Nigerian runs into a pal, he would most likely scream down heaven in excitement. It’s a norm that finds a place in how he uses the phone. Conversations are loud and irritating to people nearby. But how does that concern him? Cell phone etiquette is increasingly becoming an issue now but in Nigeria, it will take some time for that to sink.