Joburg Expat: The Pitfalls of Another Language, Even If it is English

November 14, 2011

The Pitfalls of Another Language, Even If it is English

Throughout all our moves, we've always been lucky that the posting was to an English speaking country. (Although navigating the intricacies of Singlish is a whole different story. Lah.) I can only imagine how hard it must be to have to learn another language on top of all the other stuff you have to do for an international move, and I have great admiration for those people. Well, technically I guess I'm also one of those people if I count our original move from Germany to the U.S., but that feels like it was about a hundred years ago.

But learning a new language is what also makes an international move more fun, in the long run. Noisette might disagree, but I love the challenge of languages and how they help you better understand a culture. In fact, I am convinced you can only understand (and love) a culture if you speak the language. I love France and anything French, for instance, precisely because I speak the language (or did speak the language, also about a hundred years ago). People who don't speak French don't usually love the French, if we're completely honest.

Also, if you're a blogger, you get a lot more writing material if you throw language into the mix. I recently came across this story about how the mispronunciation of a single vowel made for a rather embarrassing admission.

Which brings me to the point of today's story. I really thought, mistakenly it turns out, that I had South Africanisms down pat. In fact, I had written several blog posts about them, like From Babbalas to Yebo,  We Will Give you a Tinkle, and "Just Now" or "Now Now"? (my favorite).  Babbalas, by the way, means hangover, so you would think that if I know the word for that, I should also know what causes it.

But I didn't. I was made aware, ever so politely, that the title of a blog post last week could be severely misconstrued. Instead of conveying how angry I am at South African bureaucracy by shouting I'm REALLY pissed!, capital letters and all, I apparently told the world (or, rather, the South African-English-speaking world) that I was very drunk. Oh well, there goes my reputation. Just make sure you take everything I say with a grain of salt. ~Hic!~

4 comments :

2summers.net said...

Haha! I didn't even think of that when I read your post.

Sami said...

Hi, I came over from "Life in the Expat lane". Your words brought me back to when we lived in South Africa over 20 years ago. I still use the "just now". I had to laugh at "babbalas" or "pissed" such great words, don't think I've heard those expressions for many years!
Another one I use is "goggo"(from an African language) whenever I see a "bug"!

Sine said...

Sami, I'm so glad you found me. (BTW, I love LIfe in the Expat Lane.) And glad you enjoyed the South African expressions. Have you read another post I wrote about that, called My 43 Favorite South Africanisms? Here is the link: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2012/07/my-43-favorite-south-africanisms.html. It seems to be pretty popular:-)

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Anglophile that I am, I am amazed that I didn't catch that one before. That use of "pissed" pops up all the time in British television programs but I hadn't given it much thought before now.