It Came by Ship
It wasn’t until a few days ago that I wondered how I actually got to master a foreign language like English.
Yes, the language that has now been proven to be the most popular around the world due to inventions like the internet has ceased making sense to me. And not just to me, to my 3-year-old nephew too!
Let’s start with me, his uncle, who, after mastering the language to the point of being a published writer now wonder how a word like ‘live’ can have so many meanings. You’ll need more than 5 digits on your left arm to count the different meanings and pronunciations for L-I-V-E.
Now to my nephew. He’s just started baby class and already feels like switching to Mandarin. I went to see him and congratulate him on his first step towards an educated future. The problem is that the educated future vision had started becoming blurry.
I asked to see what he’d learnt and he brought me his Children’s Bible. Now that is a child being brought up in the right path by a loving mum. We started at Genesis, and finished at Genesis.
Page one had the usual clichéd picturesque painting of the garden of eden. I placed my finger on the lion and he said ‘Simba’. Fish was just 'fish' and monkey was 'monkey'.
Progress was good. My faith in the education system was growing until we got to the story of Noah. His big wooden vessel was called 'boat'. No time to emphasise it was an ark, so I pointed to a bird flying in the air.
Pumba came the response. He’s watched the Lion King more than 20 times so it came as no surprise that every bird is called Zazu. I, however, couldn’t let this one slip.
‘Bird. This is a bird’ I instructed him.
I should have had a camera with me. He gave me a very puzzled look and refuted: ‘No, this is a good!’
There’s a difference in the pronunciation of ‘bird’ and ‘bad’ but I guess a 3-year-old’s ears aren’t tuned to noting the difference. So I decided to switch to the national language.
‘Hii ni ndege.’ Where was my camera?
‘Hapana. Ndege ni ya kubeba watu!’ he responded.
I closed the book and went to sleep.