July 18, 2010

Ai nomo sabi tok Frentj

hehehe... I was at the Katherine Markets yesterday drinking yummy coffee and socialising. I was chatting to a couple I've known for ages - one speaks Kriol as a first language, the other speaks English as a first language and both speak the other language well. Because I'd just spent a couple of weeks out bush, my Kriol was well-oiled so I was switching between Kriol and English as I was talking to them.

After speaking Kriol a bit, their son (all of 4) goes to me, "Are you speaking French?". Now, this kid can understand Kriol pretty well and hangs around Kriol speakers quite a lot, so I was surprised he thought I was speaking French. I laughed and told him "ai nomo sabi tok Frentj" (I don't know how to speak French) but he still kept asking if I was speaking French... too funny.

I realised that for him, the majority of non-English speaking white people he's met in his short life are probably French speakers and I'm guessing he'd be lucky if he's met many other white people who speak Kriol well. So I think his brain connected my skin colour to the most likely foreign language name associated with that skin colour and hey presto, I was speaking French, not Kriol!

Now if I only I could find a French speaking black person and then see if he thinks they're speaking Kriol! :-)


Hooch said...

re your final sentence: LOL. Loving the new blog posts. xx

Crampe said...

Yes man ia olsem wanem?
We are just back from France and surprisingly enough nobody asked me if I was speaking Kriol there... my French is not too rusty after all! Or maybe your Kriol is a little bit 'rouille' after all this time playing tennis in Canberra?? Hahaha just teasing you here of course...
Are you back anytime soon to glorious Kamberra?

Ingrid Piller said...

Great anecdote about performance and perception in multilingualism. I'm sure you've seen the Rubin study where US undergraduates thought a pre-recorded lecture in Standard American English sounded "Asian," accented, difficult to understand and poorly structured when they heard it against the picture of an Asian woman ...

Rubin, D. L., & Smith, K. A. (1990). Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture topic on undergraduates' perceptions of non-native English speaking teaching assistants. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14, 337-353.