Pidgin English


Language can be the greatest barrier when you move to a new country.  Remember the scene from the movie Queen- In a restaurant in Paris- you cannot read the menu – helpless situation- hunger pranks- randomly order something -tadaaa- you get fish head with a cherry inside its mouth to eat!

Though the local language of Ghana is Twi or Chwi, moving here didn’t scare me as my Google research concluded that Ghana was a British colony once upon a time and English is the official language and lingua franca. The Britishers, I guess a ‘restless bunch’ then were world explorers. Look at them! They explored and explored and was a pain to all the host countries. But something good always comes out of every bad situation. Today, if I am able to communicate here and eat proper food and not fish head, it is because of the British. They were able to connect a West African Country with an Asian country with the power of language. The English language.

But as you know,  English is a very funny language. Just like the variety of masalas in an Indian kitchen, we have variety of English. The UK version, US version, Australian version and such. In India, we have our own desi version of English. Likewise, even in Ghana and other West African countries, British English gave birth to a new street language called Pidgin English.

The birth of Pidgin is rather interesting. When Britishers had come to trade in Ghana, they faced serious language barrier so they decided to teach some Ghanaians to read and write English. However, they were bad tutors who didn’t pay attention to pronunciation, spelling or grammar which led to catastrophic mispronunciations. In Pidgin English, there is no past or present tense. You speak it as you wish and write it as you want.; grammatical and spelling errors are impossible. Back in India, Pidgin would be a dream of many children who dread English grammatical errors.

While UK English is the official language, Pidgin is very popular among street dwellers and general public – bridging the language barriers between various ethnic groups here. For instance, for a person like me who does not know Twi can communicate in Pidgin English with my House help who does not know formal English. My version of Pidgin is actually formal English mixed with some hand gestures and accidental  Hindi words in between!

Pidgin is officially English with no rules. Let me share some Pidgin knowledge here. I have chosen some really entertaining ones.

UK English Pidgin English
How are you How bee
What is your name Wha’ be your name
My dad/ My mom Ma old boy/ ma old girl
You are welcome No pee ( short for ‘no problem’)
How dare you? Who born dog?
What is your birth date When is your born date?
Don’t be afraid Make you no fear
Day after tomorrow Tomorrow next
Hero in a movie/ villain Blow man/ killer
Generous person Father Christmas
An old man dating a very young woman/ an older woman dating a very young man Sugar daddy/ sugar mommy
He is dead He is funeral
Please/ sorry I beg oh/sorry oh
We are different Elephant you, Elephant me
Street Soccer Gutter to gutter
Eye infection Apollo( So called as eye infection swept across Ghana during the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969)
To give it for free ( bargain while shopping) my personal fav dialogue To dash
To be in trouble To make hot (Eg:‘ I am hot’)
To bribe To make someone fine
Please give me a discount I beg make you cut top small
My money is not enough My monies no catch
Local Bus Tro-Tro

( Tro-tro was derived from ‘Tro’ word which meant 3 pence which was the charge to travel during colonial era)


4 thoughts on “Pidgin English

  1. Interesting… i am here in Ghana since 2011… When i read Ur blog & look at my learning curve, there are a lot of co – incidences… i liked it so much… Keep writing more…

    Liked by 1 person

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