THE MAID'S ENGLISH
Just the other day, as mommy was busy doing one of her many chores around the house, she heard T mumble out, “water”.
Immediately, she stopped what she was doing and leaning close, she asked T to repeat herself. For some strange reason, the familiar word in question had sounded both strange and almost unrecognizable on the lips of her little tot.
So obediently, a giggly T blurted out again, ‘WATER’. Only this time, she deliberately released the word slowly.
As soon as ‘it’ was out, mommy’s fears were confirmed and honestly, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. You see, her little girl had just ditched all the rules of English Grammar and pronounced ‘water’ using the ‘pidgin’ intonation. So someway, somehow, the familiar word managed to come out as ‘WO-TAR’; ‘WO’ as in ‘WObble’ and ‘TA’ as in ‘TAriff’.
Needless to say, mommy was very disturbed….
As in, coming from the mouth of her ‘educated’ 3-year old, pidgin had never sounded so wrong before.
At this junction, please don’t get mommy wrong. She has always strongly believed that in addition to soaking up the white man’s language, children must also put in just as much effort in learning their own native language as well. However, she is also of the opinion that both languages should be spoken with the right grammatically tenses and tones in place. To her, there was no point speaking Yoruba like the Queen would or speaking English like it isn’t our official language!
So, having cleared that up, back to the story…
Now, with the ‘water’ incidence, mom actually thought that she had heard it it all. As in, after spending so much on crèche, then play group and now pre-school, what could possibly be worse than hearing one’s own daughter call ‘water’ ‘WO-TAR’?
So, not sweating much over it, she took time to correct T and then laughing, chose to quickly dismiss the incidence as just one of ‘those’ things. Probably T just heard the word ‘somewhere’out there and will soon forget all about it.
Just a few days later, patting an empty seat, T called out to an unsuspecting mommy, ‘Sidon’.
(*Now for those who don’t know, ‘Sidon’ is pidgin for ‘Sit down’).
Before mommy could react, T burst out again, ‘Mommy, sidon, sidon!’ With this, mommy went totally weak in the knees. This was all so very disturbing. Who was giving T these secret pidgin lessons? First, WO-TAR! Now SIDON!! As in, what in world was going on here?!!!
Without giving mommy the time to ponder further, Victoria, the live-in maid, passed by, muttering a pidgin song under her breath and then…
…Voila! The ‘obvious’ suddenly hit mommy…
It had been Victoria all along! T had been been learning all that crippling English from her! But because of the strong ‘combo’ influence of ‘school, mommy and daddy‘ on T, mommy had never considered Victoria’s choice of language anything to worry about. However at this junction, with the cropping up of ‘WO-TAR’ and ‘SIDON’, she realized that she had obviously been wrong…
…And fortunately, a realistic solution was at hand; Victoria will simply have to be corrected before T got totally ‘corrupted’.
However, the problem was that Victoria was a pretty good maid whom T had grown fond of.
So, mommy feared hurting her feelings by bringing up the subject. On the other hand, with the unavoidable interaction that was bound to continue between the pair, especially during long breaks from school, mommy also feared the impact of this whole saga on T.
So, she weighed her options further…
…Then, after careful consideration, she decided that going forward, time spent with T will have to include more than just running around in goofy play. Instead, she will spend more time reading to her…
…and also talking with her about anything and everything. That way, she will be able to help keep her language in check. In addition, mom also decided to politely correct Victoria whenever her language went ‘haywire’ because if she kept countering mom’s effort with her own version of English, who knows what will become of T’s…
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