You speak so well

5 Nov

It still rankles when some British throwback stranded out here in Africa but still flying the British flag in their heart, backyard, mantle piece or late afternoon tea time habits has the insensitive nerve to (I suppose) compliment me on “speaking so well.” Actually I measure that annoyance against when Africans insist on correcting other Africans’ pronunciation of English words. I mean like leggo! How about you take the same pride in learning how to pronounce your own African language first… My main man Fela Kuti klaps that one nicely, “I no be gentleman at all-O. I be African man original,” he says…but we will save this one for later.

Ya,  so a dear friend once articulated my annoyance with the phrase; she said that she expected that “you-speak-so-well” comment to be reserved for someone with a physical speaking impediment of some sort, not a perfectly healthy and obviously educated young black and fabulous person such as herself, or me for that matter. These days I can laugh with a clear conscience when Jamie Oliver glosses over his lisp with a fashionable mockney accent as he seduces food live on camera. I can roll on the floor when one of my favourite directors, that-got-his-balls-back-since-the-divorce Guy Ritchie, crams his films with an aural mosaic of some of the dirtiest parts of London… it’s really entertaining.

Since running away from London it is a less bitter pill to swallow standing on the outside looking in; not going through each and every damn day knowing that students from outside of England are the ones who pretty much speak English-English. Sort of makes one think Colonialism had an unrecognised plus point for the coloniser. When the old country has lost its way culturally, its people can always go back out to the former colonies and remind themselves what they used to be like. After all language is a whole lot more than just a communication medium, it is the trojan horse of culture.

Maybe one day when globalisation becomes too much, Afrikaans will inform and reintroduce Dutch to its former self (Go Zef!). I am convinced the Angolans and Mozambicans have already made Portuguese sexier than it was ever meant to be, judging by the vacant look that occupies my face when the chicas from there say anything in Portuguese. I was once told candomble and I hoped it suggested a night of passion to follow, I got laughed at instead… you live and you learn. Obviously Africa will keep the English going for the British, American English is only good for hip hop lyrics and no one knows what the hell Australians are saying any more. I just hope the future custodians of this colonial legacy are smart enough this time around to demand a premium for these (by then) rare commodities.

Fela Pic – Kagan Mcleod

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