EVERYTHING BUT . . .: Tale of two tongues
EVERY?SO?OFTEN some linguist or otherwise language expert comes out of the wordworks to extol the virtues of bad grammar and horrendous pronunciation, the exclusive and minuscule tongue of a few (by world standards), doing so in impeccable standard English.
An oxymoron of Airbus proportions, truth be told.
At no time, to my recollection, did Marsha Hinds-Layne in her discourse on the free dispensing of Bajan dialect to children in school ever use that means for her communication. Her English is as fresh as the early morning dew on a flower of a county plain of northern England.
I must ask if English is really Ms Hinds-Layne’s second language.
If so, she joins a brigade of Germans and Chinese whose command of the English language is superior to that of some Bajan friends of mine and certainly of that large army of radio announcers whom I must endure from morning till night.
Bajan dialect has its severe limitations and at best is a laid-back social means of interaction. It has its emotive moments, yes; and Tony Thompson can personify mostly any abstraction by it, but it is too easy-going a tongue for serious matters of state. Imagine Parliament broadcasting a Budget debate in our so-called mother tongue because “75 per cent of Barbadians use [dialect]”.
It is bad enough as it is now.
Let me add hastily, Tony Thompson can speak immaculate English; and I would be disappointed if he viewed it as his second language. I am sure his mother who wanted the best for him out of Combermere would have been too.
The English language is ours; it is no longer the preserve of the Queen of England; no more so than cricket is rightfully in the ownership of Lords.
When I was growing up I was surrounded by people who spoke dialect – or bad English; others who spoke straight English; and those who tried their damnest to. There wasn’t this glorifying of “tell she”, “gi’e he”, “come-muh”, “tree books” and “a tousand people”, regardless of Ms Hinds-Layne’s posit that our dialect “is actually a Creole language . . . born from the African and British attempts to find a way to communicate”.
The melodramatizing in Creole at Laff It Off will surely split you asunder, and sitting in the rum shop communicating in said Creole might be fine over drinks, but dialect – or bad English – over the airwaves isn’t so dandy. It grates the sensibilities of those of us who believe we need to transport our ideas clearly to those within the Creole setting and without.
We must strip our psyche of the foolishness that deference to the rules of good English is a continuing symbolic capitulation to colonial rule.
I acknowledge that there are many academic writings on the use of Creole as a “means of establishing our Caribbean identity”. I also know the proper use of standard English will in no wise destroy said identity; no more than it has eradicated that of the Germans or corrupted the quintessence of the Chinese.
The great nonsense that bad English will help our young minds preserve their Barbadianness is undermined by the obvious practice by said minds of opting for North American music – rap, hot metal and blatant noise – over the much more soothing ethnic folk sounds of the Caribbean. At best, they copy the undecipherable Jamaican reggae.
I am on the side of Esther Phillips. Young people must be convinced, if they must claim their right to “use of their own language”, that they must be proficient in standard English understood internationally. This battering and bruising of the English language with such aplomb simply will not do under any circumstance.
For all the cultural penetration we lament, we seem to succeed only in protecting our young from the influence of good English – and make grandiose intellectual excuse for it at that!