Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Nigeria: So, the US Envoy spoke Pidgin English? Big Deal!

Ambassador 101
Maybe we should sometimes wonder about what is expected of ambassadors. They are accredited representatives of their country to another country where normally they would live and interact with officials and people of that country.
Obviously, they should be expert diplomats in such a way that they should attempt to magnify the amity between countries whilst diminishing tensions between them, promoting understanding and friendships too.
There are many other roles of the ambassador, in explaining the policy of their countries clearly, being the chief executive of the consulate and its services for their fellow citizens abroad and host citizens who need to gain knowledge in many ways about the country the ambassador is from.
Soft skills of diplomacy - language
The ability to communicate is key, this is in the sophisticated use of language as well as in many cases they would be multilingual or dare I say polyglots. To expect them to speak the language of the court is probably not too much, if they speak the lingua franca, that is a matter of appreciated skill.
Enter, Ambassador James F. Entwistle, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria who has in his diplomatic career represented his country in Malaysia, Central African Republic, Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Cambodia, Cameroon, Niger, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and now Nigeria.
Pidgin English everywhere
Impressive and interesting, many of these places are former British colonies where English would have been spoken or a corruption of English known as Pidgin English of which there are many and the Nigerian Pidgin English now considered English-based creole language belongs to the broader group of West African Pidgin English languages.
If the producers at WaZoBia FM in Lagos had done very basic research on their guest, the Ambassador, they should have not been too surprised that given his wealth of experience in the subcontinent, he would have been quite able to connect a lot better than they expected.
In answering questions related to Nigerian democracy and US relations with Nigeria, he spoke quite fluently in Nigerian Pidgin English to which what he had to say was deafened by uncontrolled applause as the narrative that followed deviated from everything else he had to say. [PM News]
Noise obscures poise
Besides the commentary on the BBC, the management of WaZoBia FM should deign to conduct an orderly house with disciplined staff who can exercise a modicum of self-control and professionalism when pleasantly surprised. [BBC Audio]
The Ambassador indeed should be commended for effort and ability whilst at the same time we should not at the slightest titillation become a garrulous rabble in a circus act.
Much as we would have loved to listen to the recording of that interview, the sensational has gotten in the way of the substance of the meeting and that is rather unfortunate.
So, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria spoke Pidgin English? Big Deal! What did he say?


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