Friday, July 31, 2009

All the Pretty English Words

My husband's maternal grandma never learned English or French. She spoke Abo (her mother tongue), Duala, and Pidgin English (similar to Creole, but English instead of French). We had trouble communicating, and it was mainly for her that I went to class to learn some Duala. (My husband's paternal grandmother died when he was a teenager.)
One morning, Grandma came by our kitchen and said something I couldn't understand. She repeated several times and I still couldn't get it. Finally I realized she was saying "Good morning," but it sounded like "moni"!
Many English words made their way into the Duala language. The English Bible was the first to be translated into Duala. English words were used for items that did not exist prior to European settlers arriving in Cameroon.* Some examples:
Furniture/home:
kobati = cupboard
tebedi = table
frypan = frying pan
pan = pan
mattrassi = mattress
Building:
winda = window
briki = brick
Clothing:
drosee = drawers (i.e. underpants)
trosisi = trousers
Food:
breti = bread

*The name Cameroon comes from the Portuguese language. Portuguese explorers were the first on record to arrive in the Douala area, and they came at a time of year when the estuary was full of shrimp-like crustaceans, the mbeatowa. The Portuguese called the area "Rio dos Camerões" (River of Prawns).