Friday, March 1, 2013

English is English...right?

During our time in Ghana, we have been learning some of the local language, Buli.  Poppy, in particular, is really quite good at Buli (although she really does have some competition from Jenna, who has possibly mastered 2 words of Buli…well done Jenna!! J).  In fact, Poppy was even told yesterday that she is 100% Ghanaian now – her Buli is that good!

Ghanaian English....

Not speaking the local language perfectly really shouldn’t have hindered us all that much though, as the official language of Ghana is English after all.  Well, it is Ghana’s version of English.  I think we initially had more trouble understanding some of the Ghanaian English than we did understanding Buli.

For the most part UK English and Ghana English are very similar – a tomato in Ghana is still a tomato in English. Nevertheless, despite the “common” language, there have been many a time when we have not had a clue as to what has been said, or have completely misunderstood what the person is saying to us!  In fact, I think it is fair to say we might have understood more if the person was speaking Buli!
So I thought we could share  a conversation we have often as we go about our business in Ghana (family and friends take note, we have adapted to this version very quickly and will most likely use it when we return home!):

Ghanaian: Yo, my sistah! Howzit?
Uk Volunteer: Hello, how are you?
Ghanaian: Yeah, actually, I’m good.  Where are you going?
UK Volunteer: We are going to the……
Phone rings
Ghanaian: Let me pick it…Hello (SHOUTING down the phone aggressively), Hello, HELLO?! Oh, good morning!
UK Volunteer: awkwardly stands and waits to finish their sentence
*During this entire time, the Ghanaian has been holding the UK volunteer’s hand
Ghanaian: (after finishing phone call) I’m going to go and come
UK Volunteer: Oh ok, should I wait? (as the Ghanaian walks off)
Ghanaian: A-HAAAA!
10 mins later, our Ghanaian friend returns just as the UK volunteer manages to spill water down themselves, stub a toe, or almost get run over by a motorbike
Ghanaian: Oh, sorry*.  Here, let me help.
UK Volunteer: Oh thank you
Ghanaian: Thank you for thanking me.
*It wasn’t at all their fault that I now look like I wet myself/broke a toe/died a tragic death – they are just sorry that that happened to me.

This version of English is actually quite charming, and we have now incorporated it into our daily speech!  Some other common phrases we have learned:

A-Haaaaa – You make this noise when you are agreeing with someone

Ei! (Said in a high pitched way!) – Oh my word!!

I’m coming – Woah, woah, woah, you have spoken to quickly and now I’m lost, but let me just recap and I’m sure I will have understood!

What will you take? – this is usually said in a restaurant/bar, and means “What can I get you/What do you want?”

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