Creglish and the Good News

The MBC had better come up fast with a solution to spare the public the sorry show of hysteria and cacophony staged by MPs, bickering, hollering, shouting and interrupting one another in an outrageously creolized English. While listening to the debates on radio at midday, one had to strain one’s ears to make out the voice of the Speaker, wondering whether someone else was presiding the House. She was having to shout herself hoarse, probably sick and tired of the adrenaline shots aimed at her.

The English Department at the Ministry of Education and the University of Mauritius may as well make up their mind about the quality of spoken English to be taught and used in the country, and at the Assembly. The English and French announcements by Air Mauritius pilots are sounding better now though there is still room for improvement. Have they been coached by the Mauritius College of the Air? It was just unacceptable that they should make Mauritians the laughing stock in the region and the world.

Now, it is imperative to coach all those who speak in the Parliament in the proper use of English. Mind you, they are not required to compete with the Queen’s English. They should be reminded that the language has rules regarding pronunciation, stress pattern and intonation which should be respected. They should make an intellectual effort to respect these rules. Right now, it is revolting and shameful to watch how Creole seeps into the pronunciation, nullifies the stress pattern on first, second or third syllables, and totally knocks out the specific rising and falling intonation which characterizes English. The end result is very unpleasant and a sore to the ears. Such distortion makes understanding difficult. It shows a lack of respect for the language itself, for the status officially given to English, for the public who expect elected representatives to have a good command of the language. Enough of English Crenglish!

The unnecessary stress on the last syllable of a word at the end of a sentence is so un-English that it renders the speaker ridiculous, especially the male speakers who overact their part in a display of self-importance. Not to mention the ugly body language that goes with it. For that matter, Mugabe and other African delegates should have been an inspiration to the local politicians as regards their command of English and French. Their local languages do not seem to have such a devastating effect on these two languages as Creole has.

Barring a few exceptions at the Assembly, the former Labour PM, SAJ, the current PM, one or two ministers, Mrs Dookhun, Shakeel Mohamed, the Labour MP who spoke forcefully and clearly yesterday, and a few rare MPs, most others urgently need an intensive, serious overhaul of spoken English. How come so many Mauritians have a broadly fairly correct pronunciation of both English and French while those who travel a lot at taxpayers’ expenses continue to babble like illiterates? There is too much indulgence towards elected representatives who are unable to address the House in English. They should be considered unfit to represent Mauritius at the highest level.

One cannot help drawing comparisons every time one meets ordinary people who are considered not too educated, and yet speak both English and French fluently and correctly. Iqbal from Triolet speaks English with a proper pronunciation. He works in his fields, and occasionally, does some mowing and trimming in other people’s gardens. And the reason for his good English, he says, is that his brother who is a teacher in Australia comes to Mauritius on holidays, and Iqbal seizes the opportunity to speak English. Practice, he adds, makes perfect. Similarly, in a village in the south, a mechanic, a Creole young man comes out of his garage to help with the car. His perfect pronunciation of French prompts you to ask him if he has ever lived abroad. Well, he has never left Mauritius! The mind travels back to the august Assembly. Mind-boggling, to say the least!

The MBC has the knack of selecting poor language performers from other sectors as well. Just watch all these people, so-called personalities who are interviewed. Last year, a young student of Royal College Curepipe won the first prize of a speech competition in English. The MBC hardly gave the public a few seconds of the young student’s perfect command of English. He was cut short, deliberately, it seems. The syndrome of Mauritians not liking the idea of fellow compatriots doing well…

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What about the good news?

 What is the recent good news after we chose to switch off the radio and close our ears to the treatment meted out to the opposition’s PNQs which gave us a glimpse of the feudal mindset, the lack of accountability of the ruling parties and a tainted presidency?

Hopefully, John McAreavey will find a positive outcome to his quest and not be considered as persona non grata in his insistence to seek justice for his murdered wife. This is how a Frenchman whose wife and daughter disappeared on the day of their departure in a hotel at Le Morne more than a decade ago ended up being treated over here by insensitive people who were unable to comprehend the distress of the man and show compassion.

The sad sight of UoM law students giggling and behaving like idiots in Court in their admiration of the star lawyer defending the accused in the Michaela Harte case displayed emotional immaturity, lack of good breeding and manners, and a total lack of consideration and respect for the aggrieved family present in Court on that day.

However, Mauritians are getting more vocal in their defense of justice and fairness. In the present case, there may not be influential powerful lobbies to stifle the case with the complicity of politicians and others who want the public to swallow the news that Vanessa Lagesse died a natural death. So was Anand Kumar Ramdhony supposed to in police custody. The Bassin Blanc crime sank into oblivion.

God knows when the CCID and the police force will be trained in modern techniques of investigation in criminal cases so that officers would not beat up innocent suspects, pose for photos with a stupid smile on their faces and exhibit the bruised faces of suspects as personal trophies in the press. Right now, foreigners are invited to provide training and counselling to avoid motorcycle road accidents. Efficiency and progress in criminal investigation is not yet considered a priority.

Logical thinking morphs with ease into a twisted warped way of thinking that engenders a mind-blowing mindset which punishes the accuser and defends the guilty. It is a totally crazy, topsy-turvy situation which has spread like an epidemic in society. The two-million rupee reward promised by McAreavey is likely to awake the imagination of unscrupulous individuals. Watch out!

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 At least, a piece of good news is that a popular French singer who made teenage girls go wild with heart-throbbing cries of ‘Patriiiiiiick’ in concert halls in France a few decades ago could come to Mauritius and thrill fans without any lawyer staging protests in the streets of the capital with a group of angry people. Patrick Bruel was once forbidden to perform in the stronghold of the Front National under Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. But fans simply love his songs and do not care about his being a Jew or not.

Patrick Bruel is luckier than Enrico Macias who was not allowed to come to Mauritius because a group of people decided for the rest of the country on who can come to Mauritius and who cannot. And weak political leadership played the minority appeasement card and gave in to the demand of the excited mob in Port-Louis. Such poor political decision muzzles the rest of the population into silence. It is divisive, and creates resentment and frustration.

The hard core of the protesters are anti-music anyway, so they might as well have stayed at home and closed their ears to what distracts them from reaching spiritual enlightenment. What angered them was that a Jew should defend his own people and Israel, the land of Jews.

Last year, Algerian President Bouteflika invited Enrico Macias to visit his homeland. But religious extremists threatened to slit his throat if he set foot in Algeria. The singer backed away. At the beginning of growing ethnic tensions in Algeria which led to a civil war in the 1960s, an Algerian-French Jew was wrongly accused of having urinated on the wall of a place of worship. Extremists assassinated ten male members of the same family. They were all Enrico Macias’s relatives, cousins and uncles. They were among the first Frenchmen to be killed.

Whatever be the image projected by SAJ these days, it is largely due to his personality that angry lobbies cannot go on rampage in the streets for biased reasons and dictate their wishes to other citizens, and fame-seeking lawyers think twice before acting as heroes. It is most unfortunate and unfair that Enrico Macias, an ageing singer was refused entry in Mauritius.

What can be done to make up for the injustice is to invite the singer to Mauritius – if the Ministry of Arts and Culture has the backbone and guts to do so. It will please not only the elderly generation of French song lovers but also younger ones who will appreciate his songs. Leave the Israelo-Palestinian issue out of musical delights.

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 Other good news? The crackdown on drug dealing is pushing lazy dealers who hanker after quick bucks and idle away in an effortless cool life to look for jobs and fend for themselves. Hard drugs destroy consumers physically and mentally. Dealers are hard nuts and there should be a relentless fight to spot and destroy networks of drug circulation. Everybody agrees to that. But it is becoming harder to find even cannabis, the gandia many regular citizens consume after a meal just to relax.

In Arsenal, Rashid, in his wheelchair, admits he needs a small dose of gandia after lunch on a daily basis; it makes him feel good, poetic and all. He is quite good at composing poems and songs in Hindi. His nephews also consume it, and they bring some to him regularly. A lot of other people do so. Elderly village folks, neighbours have smoked gandia for decades as others smoke cigarettes. It has always looked natural, not as if everybody around and young children were going to imitate them or anything. Even if you have never felt the need to smoke in your life, and you don’t like the smell of cigarettes or gandia, you do understand people who need a small dose everyday or occasionally.

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 Finally, Bob Dylan accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature. He did not want the ceremony and all. Anybody wonders why? He may feel embarrassed just as Obama was after being awarded Nobel Prize for Peace hardly after his first year in office. What for? The Nobel Prize team in Sweden goes nuts sometimes. Obama mania was at its highest in Europe resulting from the euphoria among Europeans to see a black man elected in another western country – the US – but not in their own countries! Obama himself was surprised at his nomination for Nobel Prize.

The Nobel Prize team in Sweden sometimes gives in to sensationalism. The importance of Malala was blown out of proportion. Was she rewarded for being a victim of bigots and for her flight abroad after escaping assassination? The Indian man who was rewarded for charity work the same year is a member of the Christian Church just as some members of the Nobel team are reportedly said to be.

There are a good number of swamis who are deeply committed to charity work, feed and look after thousands of people in their ashrams on a daily basis. Only Mother Teresa was considered worthy of a Nobel Prize.

Now, Bob Dylan as Nobel Prize winner for Literature is a glaring aberration and utter nonsense. Song writing is a minor art and cannot be compared to literature. The award raised an outcry in literary circles in countries with old and proud literary traditions. The Nobel Prize team overlooks the fact that a widely acknowledged and most deserving Jewish American writer, Philip Roth, deserves the prize for literature. Not singers and song composers. Invent another prize for them. Just another example of things going topsy-turvy in the Kaliyug era.

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