Spoken language, dialect, and accent are crucial to the reading of Adichie's Americanah. This is especially true when the main character Ifemelu observes the language choices made by Africans in the United States, especially Nigerians, and those made by her family and friends living in Nigeria.
There are thought to be over 500 languages spoken in Nigeria, including Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Edo, Fulfulde, and Kanuri, some of which are used or referred to in the book. However, the official language of Nigeria is English, reflecting the country's colonial history. Nigerian English, or Nigerian Standard English, is a dialect of English historically based on British English but with some influence from the English used in the United States in recent years. This is the English dialect taught in schools and used in government, politics, and the media.
Nigerian Pidgin English or "Brokin English" refers to the dialect or creole spoken commonly in public settings in Nigeria. A pidgin is a grammatically simplified form of a language often used for communication between native speakers of different languages and often including elements of other languages. A creole, on the other hand, is a language that is based on one or more previous languages but is now the native language of its speakers and often contains its own unique grammar and vocabulary; these are often formed from the extended use of a pidgin language in an area.
Nigerian Pidgin English can be seen in Ifemelu's conversations with people in which the word "o" adds special emphasis and meaning to the sentence. At other times, people may choose to use words in Igbo in a sentence otherwise in English, demonstrating a shared cultural vocabulary.