Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Lesson in Namlish

Even though English is the official language of Namibia, it is noone's actual mother tounge. Actually a school here in Khorixas has a poster on their door saying:

"Don't be ashamed if you make mistakes when speaking English, it is a foreign language!"

At home most people speak one of the bezillion tribal languages, and often they don't start to learn English before they start school - when they have to learn it because all lectures are given in English. Therefore, the level of English varies greatly.

There are a few phrases here that everybody use when they speak English, though, phrases you don't normally hear an English speaker use. Therefore, we can call the language Namlish. For an already language-confused Norwegian, Namlish can be a bit hard to follow at times, at least before you recognize the pattern.

The thing that has been most confusing to me is the use of the word "must". "Must" is used in every context, and covers pretty much everything from can, could, should, will, have to, and do-you-want-me-to. While I always think of must as in "have to" (Norwegian "maa"). So, on my first day when my brother asked me "must I save some of the dinner for you Hanna?", I just said "oh, you don't have to if there is not enough"... But later I realized he was actually just asking if I wanted some dinner.. I did want some dinner!

The one thing I find most funny, though, is this: time apparently has a different meaning here, and the word "now" means more like "in a couple of hours" than "right now". So what is very funny to me is when a person is telling me they'll be back in a little while by saying "I am coming right now" just as they turn and walk away from you. I am still working on getting used to Namibian time..

And when I come back home, chances are big that I will end every sentence with "neh?" or "man!"

Gotta go! See you later, neh?

1 comment: said...

Hi there, Hanne!

"Right now" - in Namibia is now now!

I tried to send you a message on e-mail, but somehow it didn't get through. Can you please give me your "working" e-mail address?

All the best,