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Friday, October 12, 2007

Vernacular Lingua Franca?

The aim of this article is not in any way to fan the smoldering embers of tribalism to a roaring fire nor to stoke the hearth of tribal prejudice. Far from that.

There are some of us who are so much in ‘love’ with our tribal languages that we feel inclined to use them to communicate even in public places and offices – oblivious of the fact that it doesn’t rest very well in the ears of the people who can not help but hear what you are talking with your mate.

(Come to Nairobi and you’ll think you’re at the centre of a Kikuyu colony. Virtually every two other people you meet with conversing will be “Aterere-ing!” You catch the drift.)

Some of the proponents of this ‘system’ find it very easy to gossip about people in and around the office by using their vernacular other than the standard Kiswahili or English that is normally supposed to be used (to communicate in offices and public places).

It incredibly irks me when I hear people talking in their mother tongue in an office oblivious of who is around them and what discomfort they leave in their wake.

But the results of using the mother tongue in public places do sometimes turn out to be amusing and embarrassing all in one pot.

This reminds me of a certain incident which took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania some years back. Two Kenyan ladies (from the same tribe) had boarded a bus to town one Saturday morning. As they were settling in the vehicle (Daladala), a burly man got into the vehicle and sat close to them.

One look at the man and one of the ladies almost instantly started telling her friend, in mother tongue, what she thought of the man: a big, good-for-nothing man. In the same vein and tongue, the other lady, tongue-in-cheek, said that she wouldn’t date a guy his size. And she also thought that he wore smelly socks.

And the undue criticism of the man went on and on.

The man got off the vehicle first. As he was alighting, he turned to the two ladies with a sly smile playing on his lips, and, in their mother tongue (the girls’), wished them a good day. This struck the ladies and they realized that what they had all along said about the man had been understood by him. With egg on their faces, they just looked down and felt immensely foolish.
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7 comments:

chris said...

And to think that Ritchie is PURE KIKUYU!! There is still hope for Kenya guys and it ios the youngfer generation who will free the motherland from the tentacles of tribalism.

-Kumekucha-

Pananse said...

I find the incident between the mamas and their burly countryman is fairly bearable. Have you been around fellow workmates in a cafe and two of them, almost instinctively, switch wavelength just to "please pass the salt"? Or one of them would passing greetings around in the office but always switch to mama's lingua on reaching their tribesman just to say the same greeting? Like its a constant reminder that we are them and they... well cant pass the salt!!

Pananse said...

I find the incident between the mamas and their unfortunate burly countryman is fairly bearable. Have you been around fellow workmates in a cafe and two of them, almost instinctively, switch wavelength just to "please pass the salt"? Or one of them would passing greetings around in the office but always switch to mama's lingua on reaching their tribesman just to say the same greeting? Like its a constant reminder that we are them and they... well cant pass the salt!!

Vikii said...

I also noticed Chris at the I&M building yesterday talking very loud in Dholuo to a very nice looking chica. I followed them all the way to the Nairobi Cinema coz I liked what I saw. This must stop Chris! It is not only Ritchie who gets pissed off. The girl was nice but the man she was with was unmpleasantly loud in a language I didnt understand. And may be, just maybe, they were talking about me.

Ninauraga gikuyu na ndireda kumenya niki murauga. Ni murewa? Kuma umuthi ngauraga na kithungu ni kana andu othe manyiite niki ninaria.No mufaka tuifage.

Tom said...

Another kikuyu bashing blog by Chris. This hateful profiling must stop.

Anonymous said...

Be proud of you you are!!! I totally accept that "outboard" communication in a language not perceived by fellow men is wrong! But tell me people, you want me to behave like the idiots from Nyanza who assume that this is Britain always switching from their mother tongue to Queens English (for those who can master)? Its so irritating, even tony nyadundo cant help it. Its as though your mother tongue is plagued with some brain damaging vernal concoction. What is so awfully wrong with a healthy chat with a "yellow-yellow".

You want us to assume you went to some polished school where you picked that nose-oozing impecable english & some finesse and drop your lingo... If am abagusi let me be proud of that! No wonder you are waiting for Raila to become prezzo for him to trade our country to the whites. Kwendeni huko... pumbavu... mavi ya kuku!!!

(mr. steel pulse)

Anonymous said...

Kikuyus will Rule Kenya for Life , mupende musipende After Kibaki , Martha wa Karua, and then Uhuru wa Kenyatta, and then Michuki .

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