One of the things I love about Sierra Leone is the rich mixture of language. Although the official language, taught in schools and used in Government is English, the country has many different tribes, each with their own language. The south of the country, where I am based is dominated by the Mende tribe, speaking a language of the same name. But people rarely stick to one language for more than a few words. Listening to the chatter in the compound, Mende is mixed with both Krio and English to add subtle emphasis, or to make use of a favorite expression. English words stick out of conversations I overhear, almost giving the impression that the rest of the meaning is just beyond comprehension (and making it tough to ignore what might be being said).
I am learning a little Mende here and there, greetings and niceities mainly to placate excited strangers, or to get a better price at the market. But I can’t learn enough about Krio, the English-based Creole language used as a universal lingua franca. It is often used to me by strangers and, given the right mindset, can often be just about understandable in real time.
So here’s a little taster of some of the Krio I’ve managed to pick up (imagine tonality and hand gestures used to add emphasis!):
Dis work ya, a noh go ebul am – I am not going to be able to to that
A noh lehk dat wan de – I don’t like it
OO wi go si bak – OK, I’ll see you later
Aw di bodi? – How are you?
A wehl, aw yu sehf? – I’m good, and you?
Dis motoka done broke – The car is broken
Us wan yu want? – Which one do you want?
Ohmos a geth for pe? – How much do I have to pay?
Tumara – Tomorrow
Tide – Today
Nehxt tumara – The day after tomorrow
A de go – I’m going
A de lan lili bit – I have learnt a little bit
tehl gohd tehnki – Thanks to god (“tell god thankyou”)
smohl smohl – slowly, carefully, small
Usai yu de wok? – Where do you work?
Foh kohf – Please leave(!)