There is a long-standing joke, about Kenyans who go abroad and come back with an American accent, wherever they go…and that includes India, or in my case, Pakistan.
‘Hey, do you have a laira?’ Shellshocked…I could not believe when these words left my mouth. A ‘laira’ what the hell is a laira? And no, Nigerian currency is naira, not laira, so I was actually talking about a lighter…how embarrassing.
If I stay here longer, my accent, and to some extent my body language, will be thoroughly messed up. Since I came here:
- I stand very close to other men…too close actually
- I touch them too, (not the girls, cause ideally men and women don’t touch at all). But I touch my boys’ hairs all the time, and that’s cause they are usually fascinated by my bald head and take turns rubbing it and saying how interesting it feels.
- I shake my head from side to side, in agreement. Today my workmate came over and asked how work is going, and I shook my head to mean ‘Not good’, he responded ‘ oh, that’s excellent’ and walked away. Shaking your head means you are in agreement or that you understand.
- In my first weeks here, everyone used to ask me where I am from. When I said Kenya, they’d say ‘ Oh!Canada!’ and I’d repeat, ‘No,KENYA’ and they’d respond ‘Oh! KINYA!’ So to prevent this much unneeded long intro, whenever anyone asks me where I am from, I say ‘KINYA’.
Back to the crux of the matter, the twang I find coming out of my mouth when I list expect it, case in point, ‘Do you have a laira?’- I used to live with a Philipino dude, he could never get my Kenyanese accent. It got so annoying I wanted to stop talking to him altogether, cause he was always like ‘ Huh? What? I don’t understand what you are saying…’ very frustrating when you are trying to have a fully-fledged conversation. So I began to soften my r’s because this was usually the problem.
Accent check, now the international community of Karachi understands me.
And now to deal with other foreigners and some Pakistani people with amusing English, those that say ‘hairs’ and ‘moustaches’ and who start emails with strange greetings like ‘Respected Sir!’ (Yes, the exclamation mark is part of it, so I guess you should shout it: ‘ RESPECTED SIR!’ and salute) These are the same people that I was working with, and to avoid a very long 10 minute conversation, where they try to understand your questions and urgency, I had to lean close, and ask things like ‘ Status kia hay’ which in Urdu means ‘ What is the status’. I simplified my vocabulary with this lot – after all, who cares about the tense and subject/ object anymore, as long as the intended message is communicated …so I started ask things in this way ‘ What problem you have?’ or ‘Where is vendor’.
Now to really integrate, I had to adapt to local slang, so forget asking ‘What’s the plan’ it now became ‘What’s the scene?’ And to ensure a prompt and enthusiastic answer, texts would be phrased as ‘ Hi dear, what’s the scene.’ PS these are text messages to guys, because dear here is unisex. (The first time a guy texted me and said ‘Hi Dear’ I almost deleted his number)
Then came my housemate from South-Eastern Europe. Him and my Chinese housemate unanimously declared me Thesaurus Jere. So our conversations are frequently interrupted by ‘How you say…’ or ‘ Is this correct?’. Common mistakes in our household:
- I am sweat = I am sweaty
- Thanks God = Thank God
- My teeth are sensible = My teeth are sensitive
Then my Chinese housemate, who has very good English actuarry…yes actuarry it is usuarry good.
And in conclusion. Remember I recently moved jobs, and recently my workmate told me she thought I was from Canada or Australia because apparently I have an American/British accent….whats happening to me… *DRAMARIC SCREAM