On Saturday, I made the most delicious pot of Ofe Onugbu (bitterleaf soup). It had a very generous assortment of stock fish, dry fish, red prawns, periwinkles, shrimps and croaker fish. Seeing as it was a large pot, I dished out the portion meant for sale and then called on my dear friend to come and have some. I don’t like wasting food and he doesn’t know how to say no to good food so I knew he’d be the best person to invite over for a late lunch. After a couple of unreplied messages on his Blackberry Messenger, I dialled his number. “Ogbeni, I said there’s food. You read and didn’t reply. Shey ko si? Are you ill? You never ignore a message about food”. To which he replied “Sorry jare, I’m in the middle of this really meaningless argument with some silly girl who is arguing with me”. Now, my friend is quite pedantic and knowing him I immediately felt sorry for the person with whom he was arguing; Onugbu business flew out of the window, “So what is it this time?”. He proceeded to explain to me that he was correcting someone’s inappropriate use of the apostrophe sign and the person retorted with “Please leave me. English is not my mother tongue”
This English issue is a big thing. I don’t know whether to give up or to continue arguing with people over improper spelling and grammar. We get a lot of emails at BellaNaija every day and half the time, the Features Team is boggled with the task of having to explain to “writers” that “you are -you’re” is not the same as “your”. A lot of people now believe that in some alternate universe, “who’s – who is” is the same as “whose”. I must not forget the almighty misuse of “I’m – I am” and “am”.
I told my friend to learn to pick his battles wisely, especially as people do not have the same background. He yelled at that point “THAT IS WHY WHEN SOMEONE CORRECTS YOU, YOU SHOULDN’T COME BACK WITH ‘IT IS NOT MY MOTHER TONGUE'” Ah, the Onugbu conversation was turning into fight with me oh! Lo ba tan! I quickly hung up and faced my business.
I speak Yoruba a lot. Some of my close friends have said they’re convinced my Operating System is in Yoruba and then I do a quick translation into English. I don’t disagree because I’m almost convinced it is true. Heck, I even tweet in Yoruba. I find it easier to express myself and convey my thoughts in Yoruba. It’s not my fault. I spent almost a decade in Ilorin. However, I believe that in communicating, it is important that the person you’re addressing understands your point in order for it to be effective. So if you’re speaking English to me and you say “aks” to me when you mean “ask” you’d have to forgive my confusion. Or if you say “riks” when you mean “risk”, or “Tim” when you mean “theme”.
What do you guys think? Is speaking/typing proper English really too much to ask? Do you think we’re automatically disadvantaged because we’re not English? Doesn’t the fact that education is done in English mean that there’s a presupposition that one should be able to speak and write properly? On the other hand, it has been argued that we Nigerians like feeling like we can speak better English than ‘the owners of the language’. Thus inferring that these errors aren’t solely a Nigerian malaise. If you’re one of the people who thinks English isn’t your “mother tongue” and as such you shouldn’t have to obey all its rules stricto sensu, how well do you speak your “native language”?
Have a fabulous week ahead. Keep your head up and remember, it’s great to be alive. Make sure you exude happiness this week and don’t let anybody steal your joy.
Love, peace & cupcakes!
Photo Credit: madamenoire.com