The unifying force that is Pidgin

Learning a new language is always fun. Learning Pidgin has been no different. If you pay attention you may have realised that certain groups across the world speak different variations of English, regional versions, if you will. Pidgin English is a non-specific name used to refer to any of the many pidgin languages derived from English (Wikipedia). There about 22 different varieties of Pidgin English including; West African pidgin, Butler English, Thai pidgin english, Aboriginal pidgin english etc. 

I’m fascinated by regionalism. When a certain group of people have small distinguishing factors about how they speak, how they dress, how they live. Especially in today’s world where we scream from the rooftops (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and preach about diversity while deep down what we actually yearn for is sameness. We justify that sameness is predictable, it's tameable, containable, understandable….and therefore good. Our obsession with understanding everything and leaving as little mystery out there drives us to thirst for predictability and things we can explain. 

After a few hours of extensive internet searches, videos and podcasts, I think it’s only fair that I dub myself a renowned linguistic expert, right? Because spending no less than 10 hours on any activity automatically makes you an expert and gives you authority. I assume this is why we have so many doctors, lawyers, childcare experts, health and political experts on Social Media.

But before I go on, let me address one issue. There are those who will tell you that regional pidgin is reserved for ‘locals’, I disagree. As long as you’re partaking in local culture with the intention of relating better with the locals I see no problem with this. It is a problem when you romanticise or glamourise local culture in an attempt to humour the locals. I don’t need to tell you that this is weird and messed up. I love this quote by comedian, actor and radio presenter Steve Onu: “For you to reach the common man easily you must speak in a language that they understand: break it down, give them the broken English or the Pidgin English”. I’m about to share my 10 favourite Nigerian pidgin phrases, use them wisely. 

  1. How you dey? - How are you doing today?
  2. Dem sent you? - Have you been sent to torment me? 
  3. Come chop - Come and eat. 
  4. Abeg -  Please. As in, please come here. 
  5. Listen well well - Pay attention. 
  6. Na so? - Is that so? 
  7. Wetin dey - What is happening?
  8. How far? - What’s good?
  9. Comot -  Get out of here. 
  10. You sabi? - Do you know?

Now go forth, speak pidgin and be awesome. 



Nkgopoleng MoloiComment