you was a little popo, if you born in T&T, the first words
you might of ever hear in your life was somebody cooing in
your ears, Mammy nice chile. Or they could of
been whispering, My chunkulunks. My sugar dumpling.
My little sugar lumps.
They probably wasnt saying it in Standard English.
Whatever class you from, or if you ent have no class at all,
I could put my head on a block and say that at least some
of the time you does talk in dialect. Try this: say dog.
If what come out your mouth sound more like dawg
than the stingy Standard English version (dog
is a short, sharp word, not long and drawl out like we does
say it), you done talking T&T English right there.
I myself grow up talking more Standard than dialect, to tell
the truth. My mother, God rest she soul, used to boast she
went convent, and she had a perfect command of the Queens
English. I never hear she make a green verb yet, though she
did like to switch in-between Standard and T&T English
at will, like I myself. I start up a little correspondence
with a Trini in Canada and he was too surprised when I write
him in Standard.
mean you doesnt really talk like that? he ask.
Well, yes, sometimes. My friends does get kicks on my head
because is like I bilingual, talking to them in one language
and talking to people on the road in a next one. But is all
good. The point of communication is to make people understand
what you saying; to my mind it dont matter what version
of English I talk if is easy for the people who I talking
to to understand me.
I figure this column does worry some people. It have English
teachers out there shivering in their boots that some little
schoolchild go cut out the column one week and bring it in
school for a show and tell, and is then the bacchanal go start.
The child, the teacher go think, ent go know this column write
in a different language from the one they supposed to use
in school. The child, the teacher go think, go figure is okay
to conjugate the verb will as: I go, he/she/it
go, you go, we go, they/them go.
But, Miss, I dont think that go happen.
And if one day it do happen, let me make a suggestion. Instead
of you fraid the child bring the column, bring it for yourself
first. Take it and strip it down and show them, look, this
is not Standard English. It might be the way all of we does
talk but is not the way you have to write your exam or you
Just like how when you learning French or Spanish you go have
to do translation exercise and thing, make them translate
the T&T English into Standard English, replace the I
go with I will, the could of
with could have, and that kind of thing.
Show them that it have nothing wrong with the language they
does talk home with they family, but that is not the language
you expect them to talk in school.
It have plenty precedent for this, Miss. In countries where
English is the official language but it have plenty other
language people does talk, what you think they does do? Wring
they hand and complain how the children not writing in English?
No, they does teach the children and them English as a foreign
We language is a beautiful thing, a sweet language with a
whole special rhythm and pace that different from other Caribbean
English, and real different, in some ways, from the English
they does talk in Buckingham Palace.
I not saying that we must talk T&T English in Parliament,
that we must lay laws in it and go to court with it. But we
must respect it as a thing by itself and not try to beat it
out of children. Is part of who we is, and nothing and nobody
ent show me yet how the two language cant live good
In the Shakespeare play The Tempest, the character name Prospero
have a famous line about how he teach the island fella, Caliban,
language so that Caliban could know he own meaning. But Caliban
had a whole world before Prospero sail in from wherever he
come from to confuse Caliban head with a set of high talk.
The play dont say, but I have a mind Caliban never feel
a feeling he couldnt explain.
Same way, it have plenty people in these two islands who good
good, talking the language they hear since they come out their
mother belly and ent need nothing else. Is when you have to
work with the Government or go and do exams and thing you
have to know your thoses and thems,
instead of your dozes and dems, but
dont get tie up.
Talking T&T English dont make a man any more or
less smart or stupid and if you ask me, when it come to languages,
the more the merrier.