The Obsession with Engrish

Dear Africana Woman,


What is this obsession with the English language ayi? I can only talk about my experience in Zambia but I wonder if other countries experience the same. Actually, I think Zambians have a special brand of obsession with the coloniser’s language.


Growing up, we made a point of laughing at anyone who made a mistake in their speech. The kind of mistakes where one confuses their L with R. To this date I remember statements like, “Who diggid the whole” being a classic running joke in our class. I cannot remember who said it or the context of why it was said. At my boarding school the grades had two classes A and B from 8 through to 12. However, in Grades 8 and 9 we had an additional class called C comprised of students from the surrounding area. Their English wasn’t the strongest. One time they presented assembly and sang a song that went something like, “Depraysion, and Meesory, you Nayver know what you find, speak to the Lord…” Oh my days we had a field day mocking them because of their pronunciation. I mean 20 years later I remember the lyrics like it was yesterday.


During my time of primary and secondary education the school of thought was that children were banned from speaking any vernacular on school premises because it hindered their ability to learn English proficiently. You would get punished if you were found speaking any vernacular. Personally, when I was a baby I spoke bemba and then at some stage decided to set that completely aside and speak solely English. To this date that is all I speak with precision. But over the years I have stopped laughing at people’s blunders as they speak it. Even when I see spelling mistakes I do not feel the need to correct it because I still understand what the other person is trying to communicate. I feel like we were made to believe that your intelligence was directly co-related to how well you spoke English, which is absolute bollocks.


Now first of all get this straight, in a nation with o