What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The language situation there in Sierra Leone is going to be interesting.  The country's official language is English, but it is only spoken by a small minority of the population and mostly located in Freetown.  The lingua franca that unites all the different local and tribal languages is Krio.  Which started "as a trading language for tens of thousands of freed slaves from all over West Africa, Europeans, and other merchants."  It has elements of many languages but its most obvious roots are from Jamaican freed slaves, Nova Scotia, English, and West African languages.  For some simple phrases click here...  

There are also another 23 or so 'living languages' still spoken throughout the country. The two main ones are Mende in the south and Temne further northwest.  It will be useful to be able to greet and exchange pleasantries in these two languages, but for the most part, my focus needs to be Krio.  I have downloaded an old Peace Crops manual for learning Krio, but it is not exactly of the highest quality.  I have my work cut out for me.  Languages for me are also a bit touch and go.  I never really do well learning them from afar.  When I went to Prague I just got a book and walked around reading all the signs and interacting as best I could.  I had my little dictionary and just learned via trying and listening.  Problem now though is that I can't find a pocket english-krio dictionary, but who knows, that may change in country (though I'm not holding my breath... ;)  

Languages throughout the developing world are under a great deal of pressure from globalization as well.  I take a bit of a sense of passion with this.  As you can see from the above video many languages are slowly disappearing due to larger more 'useful' languages.  In the video, it is Krim that is disappearing in the face of Mende (both indigenous languages), but then it is (what could be considered a 'foreign' language) Krio that has overcome Mende as the country's universal language, and then English that has become the official language of the country.  You see this all over the world, the main languages - especially English - are learned everywhere and in turn local languages are threatened and lose some of their vibrance.  With this obviously a part of one culture wanes under the pressures of another.  Though I will be learning a 'new' or 'foreign' language in Krio, I still see this as a step in a more fulfilling direction.  I will not be learning French or Spanish, but learning something unique and specific.  A language spoken by only a few people (in global terms), and I find a pleasant sense of satisfaction within this.  

But I need you all to keep me going with it!!  I am not studying it enough...  ;)


No comments:

Post a Comment