Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kenyan English

For those of you who have never lived outside of your native-English-speaking country, you may not be aware that there is a significant difference in the various "brands" of English.

Today I visited one of my favorite spots in Nairobi. As I was leaving, the staffer said, "Don't get so lost." In America, that phrase would result in the other party saying, "Huh?!"

What the other person meant was, "Don't wait so long before you return next time!"

And that is the very reason why I am in the line of work I'm in - assisting Bible translation. You can imagine that some critical concepts would not translate even within the different brands of English, to those who don't know both "languages."


Katherine said...

It's very interesting hearing about the Kenyan phrases...thanks for telling us - keep it up.

Courtney said...

I kind of like "don't get so lost". Kind of assuming that you should be finding your way back here, it has a welcomness to it... just an unintentional outcome likely but I think it's welcoming.

Maria said...

hi paul - i grew up in kenya and kenyan english was my first foreign language (mother tongue: german). the other day, i met a guy whom i had been talking to over the phone a couple of times. seeing me for the first time he spoke out in surprise: "oh, you are a mzungu! from the way we talked, i thought you are one of us."
i laughed and felt like one of "us" :-)

Allison Gratz said...

I'm trying to figure out a good Canadian-english equivalent for the Kenyan-English word 'disturb', ie 'cooking on a makaa jiko does not disturb as much as a mawe tatu' People used the word disturb much more than I am used to here. Any ideas?

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