English and the Rio ef­fect

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Leisure -

I RE­MEM­BER read­ing in one edi­tion of The Sun­day News Mag­a­zines some years ago, that a lo­cal model was on the verge of great things, but had hit a pot­hole.

She could not speak a stitch of English and yet she pos­sessed an Or­di­nary level cer­tifi­cate!

I was tempted then to hitch a lift to ru­ral Plumtree to in­ves­ti­gate be­fore I had a se­ri­ous re­think. What’s so spec­tac­u­lar about the English lan­guage af­ter all?

In fact, the peo­ple at Heads Mod­el­ling Agency had their pri­or­i­ties right. Why deny Julie an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time just be­cause she could not khu­luma isikhiwa?

Beauty first, then com­mu­ni­cate later, which is ex­actly what hap­pened and to cap it all, the tall ru­ral beauty ac­tu­ally made very good progress.

With apolo­gies to all English lan­guage teach­ers, I will be the first to ad­mit that English is as for­eign to all of us. As we say in SiNde­bele, “Sabuya nge­sikepe!”

Zimbabweans try too hard to even outdo the English. Have you heard what they say about our spo­ken skills? They say we speak English bet­ter than the English them­selves!

But if truth be told, our pro­nun­ci­a­tion is not what my late English teacher Maka­mure would be proud of.

Not when we have ra­dio pre­sen­ters say­ing theirs is the best “stayshen in the khantry!” and the Mighty War­riors are rep­re­sent­ing us at the “Rio Twenty Sik­isteen Olympics.”

Why are we so fussy about pro­nun­ci­a­tion, spelling gram­mar, pro­nouns, nouns, con­ju­gat­ing the verb and all that jazz?

Life would still go on even if we mas­sa­cred the Queen’s lan­guage here and there.

Go to any Euro­pean coun­try and you will dis­cover that you are un­likely to be shot by fir­ing squad if you de­cap­i­tated the English lan­guage. As long as you can get the mes­sage across, it’s fine.

Just to show you that there is no stranger lan­guage than English, swal­low the fol­low­ing for size. These are signs that have been found around Africa;

In a restau­rant in Zam­bia: “Open seven days a week and week­ends.”

On the grounds of a pri­vate school in South Africa: “No tres­pass­ing with­out per­mis­sion.”

On a win­dow of a Nige­rian shop: “Why go else­where to be cheated when you can come here?

On a poster in Ghana: “Are you an adult who can­not read? If so, we can help.” (Don’t ask me but I am try­ing hard not to laugh.)

In a ho­tel in Mozam­bique: “Vis­i­tors are ex­pected to com­plain at the of­fice be­tween the hours of 9.00 AM and 11.00AM daily.”

On a river in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo: “Take note: when this sign is sub­merged, the river is im­pass­able.”

In a Zimbabwean restau­rant: “Cus­tomers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the man­ager.”

A sign seen on a hand dryer in a Le­sotho pub­lic toi­let: “Risk of elec­tric shock. Do not ac­ti­vate with wet hands.”

In a ma­ter­nity ward of a clinic in Tan­za­nia: “No chil­dren al­lowed!”

In a ceme­tery in Uganda: “Per­sons are pro­hib­ited from pick­ing flow­ers from any but their graves.”

In a Malawi ho­tel: “It is for­bid­den to steal tow­els please. If you are not a per­son to do such a thing, please don’t read this no­tice.”

A sign posted in an Al­ge­rian tourist camp­ing park: “It is strictly for­bid­den on our camp­ing site that peo­ple of dif­fer­ent sex, for in­stance a man and woman, live to­gether in one tent un­less they are mar­ried to each other for that pur­pose.”

In a Namib­ian night­club: “Ladies are not al­lowed to have chil­dren in the bar.”

And you thought Julie the beauty queen had a big prob­lem with English, did you?

Switch­ing over to the Rio 2016 Olympics, we are so ex­cited that the Mighty War­riors made it to the grand stage of global sports.

Never mind that they were mauled 6-1 by the world’s sec­ond best women’s soc­cer team.

I no­ticed that we have some re­ally neg­a­tive coun­try­men out there who are just plain nasty. Per­haps they are jeal­ous that those girls are in Brazil and they are not.

If the pres­ence of the Mighty War­riors at the Rio Olympics does not move you, then we could ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity that you are made of stone.

The Mighty War­riors

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