Supposedly, West Africa is mostly English speaking, and eastern Africa
speaks French for the most part. Supposedly. And that’s just the
funniest thing to those of us here in Cameroon, a country on the west
coast of Africa. We are also in the half of the country that should
speak English, not French. It’s true that more people here speak
English than French, but the English that they speak is not the
English that I speak. No, not at all. Everyone in Lassin speaks the
dialect Noone and the form of English called pidgin. Not everyone,
however, speaks or can understand English. This is the reason why we
have translators/aides in our classrooms at the school.
As in all places, there are some words that don’t really transfer from
your English to mine. For example if someone says that they will
surely be at the church tonight for the meeting, what they’re really
saying is that they will probably be at the church tonight. If I try
explaining to someone that my foot is hurting, they could be quite
confused. First they might ask where my foot is hurting. To them, my
foot runs from my hip to my toes. They also don’t really use the word
hurting; instead, they say paining. So for someone to be getting me, I
should really say, the upside of my lower leg is paining me.
If I want to go out jogging or playing football, I am sporting. If I
want to know whether or not my class understands my instructions, I’ll
ask them if they are hearing or getting me. I might want to tell my
neighbor that I’m walking to school, they’ll think that I’m working to
school; I should actually say that I’m trekking.
The other day, Brother Gregory asked Steve if he could hear the
termite poison at the school. He, of course, meant to ask if Steve
could smell the stuff. I often hear people say to me “oh, you have
been missing?” That just means they haven’t seen me in a while.
The kids at school get mad at any other student who messes with the
air. You can imagine that means that the students have eaten a bad
combo of fufu and something soaked in palm oil, resulting in really
New babies are born, or put to birth, everyday at the health center.
Speaking of health, you might ask someone here who isn’t feeling very
well if they will go to the health center to get tested for malaria.
They’ll say no, they don’t really have the money to go to the center,
but, yes, they’re sure they have malaria (disregard the previous
definition for surely). You may then look at them with wide eyes and
really urge them that they need to get that checked out; they probably
don’t have malaria at all. People here call any sick, or illness,
Here in Lassin, the answer to every question is yes, and foreigners
are always wealthy. We have so much, in fact, that we have to give
much of our things away so people better ask for them, just in case.
And if you pass your friend who has arranged to meet with you later
(or even in this very hour) to ask you for your things (especially
before you leave the country), they’ll say “I’m coming!” When they’re
planning on coming, you may never figure out. You could decide to just
meet with them now, and in the case, you’d want to ask “can we move
together”, not let’s take a walk.
And last but not least of all these strange words with multiple
meanings is the word finished. If you’re reading this blog now (does
anyone read this anymore?), you may have noticed the wide lapse in my
blogging. See, what happened was my computer got finished. Three or
four weeks ago, I was using my computer as I usually do (did), when
all of a sudden, the battery died. From that moment on, my computer
will not charge or even function with the battery in the computer. In
order for the computer to function, I must remove the battery and plug
in the computer. Other things that are finished are the honey, the
taxi driver who got beat up some months ago by a gendarme, the
chocolates my mom sent me, my white hot chocolate, and Kiddo the baby
Words are something else here, and miscommunications are frequent.
It’s still pretty fun to try to communicate, though. We’ll see how
long it takes me to figure out my mother tongue again.