1 Jan 2015

Elocution lessons for Stephen Williams

It is absolutely fair comment to say that Acting Commissioner of Police for Trinidad and Tobago, requires elocution lessons. How?

STEPHEN WILLIAMS_0_0You need only watch this video and listen to Williams giving a talk at Cambridge – yes Cambridge UK. (Scroll across to the 5 min mark).

I’m NOT suggesting that he needs to change his accent. People listening to him speak, might think (at least attitudinally), something along the lines of, ‘that’s how the natives speak down there.. oh dear!’ Well that would be true. However, ‘natives’ including myself who were educated in English (only) on that Rock were drilled about speaking in or for formal situations.

The issue is also similar for Jamaicans. I recall that many of my Jamaican lecturers would speak the Queen’s English perfectly – with proper pronunciation of words – when giving lectures. But if you met them informally at a pub or party they spoke like any average Jamaican, patois and all.

We were clearly taught back on the Rock, that when giving a speech or in a formal situation the following changes are to be made:

Informal (patois)

Formal (the Queen’s English)

Dong

Down

Dee

The

Dat

That

Arong

Around

Doze

Those

Deese

These

Dohh

Though or Don’t

Tuh

To

Specially for Stephen Williams

Home-ee-cide

Homicide

Comprom-eye-zin

Compromising

Decreasin

Decreasing

Tree hundred and seventy nine

Three hundred and seventy nine.

Do I have mission to appear better than Stephen Williams? No! So, why is any of this important? Over the last two years or so I’ve come to appreciate that perceptions and expectations of a ‘people’ are quickly generalised. I don’t like that sort of thing and I can’t change it. As a matter of fact for example I can tell you based on my experience that with about 70% probability people from India, who learn English as a second language will substituted a ‘W’ sound for a ‘V’ sound in most words that begin with ‘v’. So ‘victory’ will become ‘wicktory’. It’s not that they can’t say ‘v’. (I can’t explain it and I won’t attempt – but it remains a fact for me).

So for Trinbagonians using their patois ‘down’ becomes ‘dong’ – which is fine if they’re ‘liming on the culbot’ (aka culvert). However, I don’t think they need to give a wrong impression to the rest of the world that they can’t speak English properly, or a broader impression that ‘natives’ of T&T speak similarly all the time.

And for me it’s a sensitive matter, because a few years ago I was exploring the possibility of working in Australia. Then it became a requirement of a certain regulator that I have a language test to see if I could speak English!!! Huh? I only know to speak English – like any other person born in England. Well – the Australians couldn’t care less! I needed to take a test – else no job. I told them to take their job and stuff it! But reflecting now on this, I have to say that if they listened to the likes of Stephen Williams the Australians might well have doubt about his articulation – and whether their natives would understand him. Look, the first time I heard this ‘home-ee-cide’ thing I did a double take. Like what the hell is that?! Chryssst!!

People on the Rock and off the Rock must be cringing when they hear Williams speak. Oh well. It’s a new year.. some things change and some don’t.

However, Williams appears rough or unrefined in his intonation – and that’s fine for those who like that ‘bit o‘ rough’. I however, think he could take some lessons from Gavin Nicholas former High Commissioner for T&T in London.

Yes – I do write in the local patois for effect. However it is clear that I am capable of proper English.

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