Thursday, January 27, 2011

Accents and the like.

First off, a familial shout out to Fay, who - according to the biography provided - is a cousin of Denise's from Guelph. Welcome to the group Fay, we are now 19 strong. Woot!

Every day I spend two and a half hours running the aftercare program at Ross Prep school. I like it, even if it's a glorified babysitting stint; it allows me to use some of the things I learned in education, and it keeps me from getting rusty. Plus I just enjoy the kids' company - there's a lot of different personalities going on here.

A couple of days ago I had to hang around at the school for an extra half an hour, because one of the boys' parents was MIA. He's a local kid, whose parents enrolled him in the school because it's the best education you can get on the island - the public schools are understandably underfunded. In class, he has no accent to speak of, but when I heard him call his mother on the phone, he slipped into a very heavy Caribbean accent. It hadn't occurred me (quite naively) that anyone would want to slip into Caribbean accent; I've always dismissed it as goofy (a product, I'm certain, of the many Bacardi Rum adds where Caribbean dudes are just drinking and havin' fun wit deir accents). For this student, I would imagine that his parents would not appreciate hearing him speak with a North American accent while at home, no more than an American or Canadian would appreciate having their child speak the Queen's English at dinner.

Meanwhile, a colleague taught me today some of the dialect of the locals. I've heard some say "wa" in the middle of a sentence, though I didn't understand what it was. I just learned that it is from the french "oui", meaning "yes". So when someone says: "Yes, I go to da store, wa, da store", I now know, for the most part, what they're saying. The opposite? "Na".

I still have far more difficulty understanding the accent (dialect?) here than most - I've always had trouble with it. Perhaps it's my weak brain power. Denise can catch almost everything, so sometimes she translates. It makes me look like an old man.


  1. Here's a little tid-bit I learned from my intro Anth class: Apparently, dialect, or "code-switching" is actually quite common in historically colonized countries, as well as for immigrants to countries with a different cultural dialect. I think it can be either conscious (as it would be in the case of the decolonising countries as a show of defiance in maintaining their native dialect) as well as unconscious, using the native dialect to communicate with their cultural peers, and the "coloniser", or in this case, the American dialect when surrounded by a more Americanised environment like that private school. So there you go.

  2. That was me, Christine by the way, don't really get how this whole profile thing works.