Thursday, August 16, 2007

You Put Here Okay

“Can you drop the avocadoes at her house on your way home?” My older brother looked up from the magazine he was skimming and nodded. “Bring green vegetable I bring yesterday you know? Like big one it is…” I instructed one of our housekeepers over the phone, “Send in small elevator … Big Brother take to sister house now.”

As soon as I hung up, I turned around and asked my brother, “You know, I really do not know why we talk to our housekeepers in an extremely unstructured and grammatically incorrect way. Is it racist? And if we dumb down the way we talk to them – so to speak – how will they learn the language properly?”

My brother smiled and admitted that he had the same conversation with an acquaintance the other day. “I mean, I think it is almost instinctual no?” I went on. “And it is not only in English but Arabic as well. For example we usually say ‘Jeeb hatha 7i6ee hini’ and ‘Ana roo7 bara al7een…if want anything sawee telephone,’” my brother added.

But seriously, it is an interesting something to think about.

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at 12:22 AM


  1. Blogger 3baid posted at 1:44 AM  
    Yes, before I talk like that everyday because maybe they are not understanding well. But I know in our house, they understand good so no more talking like that.

    "Make for me [something]" is very common for "Make me [something]"
  2. Blogger error posted at 1:51 AM  
    thats because of the grammatical structure of their language they involuntary influenced the way we communicate with them.

    that’s how they speak

    saf karoo "sawee natheef"
    leyk yaau "jeeb henee"

    ya3ni its like when an arab says "open the light" efta7 el lait

    and no, my grandmother is not Indian :P
  3. Anonymous B's Sanctuary posted at 1:53 AM  
    I have no idea why we do this. It seems like i switch to broken english every time i talk to them, then i keep thinking why why why? Next time i'll address them properly. So when next time comes i speak in proper english and guess what? they don't get me! Strange!
  4. Blogger Kthekuwaiti posted at 8:12 AM  
    Have you tried speaking in proper english/arabic? You will get a look of utter confusion, then the dreaded left-right, its not a yes, its not a no) head nod.
  5. Blogger Delicately Realistic posted at 9:19 AM  
    Tsadgen i dont do that with the home help....what i do do is break up the sentence put a lot of emphasis on each word as if they were hard of hearing ;S ....cuz they reaaaally have to listen well to get it.

    Ive always sympathised with them on this one...i mean they move to a different country where they dont know the language and theyre not at the age that learning a new language is that easy. I know if i were in that position id never learn the language.

    On a different note, i really have the utmost respect for asians (mainly indians and pakistanis) because i have met quite a few doctors with perfect kuwaiti accents, or at least very very good arabic. Once at school i saw one of the tecnichians who was wearing a punjabi talking to another kuwaiti technichian in the cutest kuwaiti accent ever....i just stood there in fascination just listening to her was the cutest thing ever. I mean they were talking about something work related, and she was saying the scientific terms in english but the rest was all in kuwaiti although she could have easily said it all in english.
  6. Blogger Khaos posted at 12:49 PM  
    I tried to do some little experimenting once. I tried to talk to an Indian in pure Kuwaiti once but I soon switched back to the Kuwaiti-Indian pseudo language when I got the "a deer about to be hit by a car" look.

    As for the question of racism... I don't think so. But I admit that it does sometimes feel as if you're being condescending.

    But there are certain words that I don't really get why we use. For example, "Jeeb" instead of "Yeeb". Hmm...
  7. Blogger Purgatory posted at 1:56 PM  
    My concern in the post is your use of the word "instinctual" with your older brother

  8. Blogger Hanan posted at 3:04 AM  
    I don't do that myself but it is a common habit. An assumption that they wouldn't understand proper English (or Arabic) so we give them the improper version. But yeah, for those who don't know any Arabic for example, why would we use jeeb instead of yeeb? either way it's a new term to them.
    I usually argue with friends about that. LOL part of being an English teacher. Correcting people's language is a habit (or maybe it's a habit in our household)
  9. Blogger 1001 Nights posted at 6:12 PM  
    You make a good point. I don’t think it means we’re racist at all. I just think we don’t have the patience to have our requests be misunderstood so we say it in what we think is the clearest and simplest way possible. But you know what’s interesting? The housekeepers who work for old ladies tend to speak “Kuwaiti” really well. The older women don’t soften down their Kuwaiti for them so they end up learning to speak it well and sometimes they even get the same tone as the woman.
  10. Blogger Erzulie posted at 1:11 AM  
    3baid: Yeah I guess it depends on their actual comprehension level (God that sounds racist but I hope you know what I mean). For instance, we once had a young woman from India who did not know one word of English; speaking to her in broken English made it easier for her to learn. However, my grandmother's housekeeper, a Philipino in her mid-thirties, is a college graduate and her English is much more refined than the average housekeeper.

    error: Haha :P Well, that may be a factor.

    b's: You know, I think that over time, they would begin to understand proper English. Yes, it is easier for them to grasp what you mean when you say something like "Make iron this but see make hard" instead of "This is a silk shirt so be careful when you iron it because it might get ruined if the heat is set too high." I personally find it hard to talk in that broken English, maybe because I'm not used to it and also, I try hard for them to get what I'm saying by using as few words as possible.

    K: You know I haven't actually. Again it depends on who I'm talking to; if the person's English is good, then I end up talking in proper English but in a slightly slower rate as opposed to my usual "ri6eena."

    DR: Yup, I stress on certain terms as well. And yes! I actually have overheard many of them talking in pure Kuwaiti. Heck, one of our housekeepers, an elderly Indian woman who has been with us for 27 years now, constantly surprises us (and makes us laugh) when she sarcastically says, "Hada ilee nage9 ba'ad." But there are some who really perfected the Kuwaiti accent.

    khaos: Condescending is the term I was looking for I suppose, and I do feel that sometimes. I personally don't say "Jeeb," just "Bring" and "Make." Strange.

    purgatory: Tara ba 3alim! :P~ Khalait el post kila oo 3alaqt 3ala hal shay! :P~~

    hanan: Lol. You know, I think I'm going to start speaking to them in proper, PROPER English from now on. Start out slow and then hopefully, they'll get the hang of it. I don't know why I remembered this now but I was at a gathering once and one of the women spoke to the housekeeper in perfect English (American accent and all) and a few of the young ladies seated next to her exchanged silly glances in reaction to her prim speech as if saying, "Well look at this prissy missy going all American Psycho on us." Amusing incident.

    1001: Yeah, I think we go to the faster and simpler way instead of the slower and more complex one that would actually help both ends in the long run. And I have noticed older women's help speaking like them! It is kind of cute, if you want to call it that. Starting now, I'm going to talk to them in proper English *nods to self*
  11. Blogger 3abeer posted at 12:49 PM  
    As usual.. you sit there and come up with the most interesting observations ever ;)
    it's true what you said about dumbing down the language for them to comprehend it .. or so we think!

    but believe me I tried talking proper english.. mako fayda they don't get it .. I guess they learned it word by word so when u break it down it makes more sense to them to add up the words they know and create something meaningful in their heads.
    not rasist more like compasion .. they're not harvard grads u know.. otherwise they could've found a better job :)
  12. Blogger Judy Abbott posted at 6:20 AM  
    their mother tongue language is grammer less.. so adding grammar will confuse them .

    For example is you learn indian you will understand why we talk to them in that way.

    In my case i am grammarless khel2a :P
  13. Blogger Erzulie posted at 5:43 PM  
    3abeer: Hey you! Well, that's all very true but I think that if you immerse them in that kind of language - the right one - they will find it hard to catch up at first. However, I do believe that over time, they will understand proper English if they're exposed to it on a daily basis. This post has been in the back of my head every single time I spoke to the help and yes, I DID tweak my English, to the better! :P

    judy: Well, I don't really see the link between their language's grammar and the way we speak to them. We just speak Indian/English to make it simpler for them to comprehend what we're trying to get across and many people speak Indian/English (don't know if that's kosher) without any prior knowledge of the Indian language's structure and how it differs from the English language. Basically, I think we oversimplify the English language; we don't parallel it to the grammatical structure of their mother tongue.
  14. Blogger Swair. posted at 12:32 PM  
    so true! i'm trying to teach our maid english, since she's already good with arabic and speaks it fluently, but when i teach her english i do speak like that for no apparent reason! lol

    shakli i should practise speaking to her plain english and no maid-enized english!

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