OUR KIND OF ENGLISH : Education ‘in shambles’; let’s ‘chat’ the way forward

Sunday November 18 2018

We received this one courtesy of a WhatsApp

We received this one courtesy of a WhatsApp friend who showed he would love us to share it with Our Kind of English readers. It’s a gem that, you’ll agree, needs no critique—just enjoy it, reader. Trust signwriters! PHOTO|COURTESY 

By Abdi Sultan

Some scribbling colleagues seem to be absolutely insensitive to the frequent criticism we post here. This must be the reason the headline chief for the back page in the Fri, Nov 2 edition of the tabloid closely associated to this columnist writes: ‘Arsenal legend Pires JETS IN Dar es Salaam’. Of course, he ought to have written: ‘Arsenal legend Pires JETS INTO Dar’. Or, in simple, less pretentious English, he could have just written: “…ARRIVES in Dar”.

And then, if we’re to say it, longish words like ‘Dar es Salaam’ look rather ugly in a headline, don’t they? A senior colleague once educated this columnist that words such as this are NOT headline words! On Page 7 of Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet of Sat, Nov 3, there’s an article entitled ‘The Swahili debate comes back to earth’. The scribbler, purporting to paraphrase what was said by a leading Kiswahili crusader, Prof Martha Qorro, writes: “She made it crystal clear that…a pupil or student tends to understand THE subject’s concepts when s/he is taught BY his (sic) first language.”

We’ve issues of brevity, grammar and consistence here. Let’s offer a partial rewrite: “…a LEARNER tends to understand A subject’s concepts (better) when s/he is taught BY s/her first language.”

He further writes: “This is a challenge that needs…efforts to make Swahili A medium of instruction TO all public schools.” To all public schools? Nope; the correct preposition here is IN: “…make Kiswahili THE (not A) medium of instruction IN all public schools”.

In another para, our colleague, purporting to quote a past president, writes thus: “…we must call for a national dialogue to CHAT out A way forward…” To “chat” means to engage in informal, friendly way…in Kiswahili, we say kupiga soga. What the ex-prez suggested, we’re certain, was a national dialogue to CHART out THE (not “a”) way forward.

Finally, our colleague gives us another gem when he writes, “…education as a whole in public schools is in SHAMBLES since mid-90”. In shambles? Nope; we say—strangely as it might sound—in A SHAMBLES!

On Page 9 of the same edition, a columnist writes in Para 2 of his piece: “The agreement paved A WAY for our cultural groups to visit China…” Pave a way? Nope; this is an idiomatic expression that means make things easier (for other people or things that follow) and it bears definite article THE, not “A”. The agreement paved THE way for our cultural groups…

And then, Page 3 of Bongo’s huge and colourful broadsheet of Wed, Nov 14, carries a story entitled ‘Set aside budget for starting agriculture resource centres—call’, in which the scribbler writes: “…The deputy minister added that it is HIGH TIME small producers FOCUS on changing from peasant to improved agriculture…” This is an old, common goof…high time + simple tense. The correct way to say it is: “…it is HIGH TIME small producers FOCUSED on…” Like, when you feel you must leave your host’s place, you tell him: “Bro, it’s high time I LEFT.”

Ah, this treacherous language called English!

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