We are a melting pot of cultures and languages. Within our borders lies a conflagration that has melted all these cultures into a single unintelligible mess. The very expression of this is the desecration of the English language. While this may sound haughty and pretentious, it is nonetheless a reaction to the complete loss of linguistic rules that has become known as Kenyan English. Even with the accents and travel time clocked by much of the population it is still very disheartening to know how butchered the language is and how it makes communication almost impossible.
We are a nation of runners and yet most of those runners can’t say athlete. When did we agree to say earth-let-iii. I can’t imagine the conversations at the embassies when these guys get their visas.
“Why do you need the visa sir?”
“I am an earth-let-iii.”
“Excuse me sir.”
“I learn (run).”
“So you are a student?”
“No. I am a learner. An earth-let-iii.”
I think it usually boils down to them having to mime movements to get the blasted documents. OK so you might cite the influence of their mother tongue and maybe you are right. But our generation can hardly speak their native tongue yet they are joining in the bandwagon. Theirs is worse since it is an educated foolishness. Every sentence is preceded by a ‘Si’ which would make a foreigner think we came up with our own version of Spanglish. Then there are those who speak of other “stuffs’ or better still the ones who can’t get enough of themselves when they say ‘Me, I……..’
Then there are the ones who have decided to ‘literally’ kill the word literally. Walk into a party and hear the Kenyan Paris Hilton speak of how she ‘literally’ died when her boyfriend got her another ugly mut. It is explicitly Kenyan to have heroes and ‘sheroes’ and where fatal accidents don’t kill you. It is only in Kenya where sachet rhymes with carpet and where reserve is any place out of the capital. News stations can’t decide whether ‘cache’ sounds like catch, touché or cash. It’s all so troubling. The cream of the crop for me is the group which can’t decide whether they are talking about a guy or girl. ‘He’ and ‘she’ are exchanged so regularly that you’d think there were forty characters rather than one.
No I’m not talking about the extreme ones. Those I’ll leave well alone. This isn’t about the ones who say you look ‘twice’ to mean you look like twins. Nor the ones who want you to see them ‘behind’ class to mean before class. Of course we can blame some of our teachers and politicians for these problems. I, for example, had a problem pronouncing my name after high school. After four years of hearing ‘Blian’, saying Brian just felt so wrong. My classmates must remember the guy who infamously said he couldn’t believe he was beaten by a ‘ngao’ (girl). No this isn’t about him. In the age of facebook, I surprise myself that I actually say ‘lol’ in my head when I read something funny.
They say language is a dynamic and organic entity. Thus I have no problems with the fact that English will continue to change but the Kenyan rate of evolution has me in a tailspin. For those who think I need to get off my soapbox I will comply but you might be surprised next time I take part in conversation and walk away with no idea about what you just said. Hopefully the nod and smile technique won’t give me away.