Monday, June 20, 2011

English in Belize

English is the official language of Belize; but, it’s the second language for close to 98% of the people born here. So, over the years I've discovered that I don't always understand English as it's sometimes spoken.

Once when I was living in Dangriga town, one of the neighborhood children came upstairs and “hailed me” through the kitchen screen door as I was piling some freshly picked oranges into a bowl.. She said her mother wanted some “shambula”.

“What?” I said. She’s about ten years old.

“Shambula.” she said with her thumb in her mouth - her hair in riotious braids and ribbons.

“What’s shambula? What does your mother want?”

“Shambula.” thumb part way out. Mouth open. It was becoming obvious to her that I was very ignorant.

“Shambula? I don’t know what that is. I don’t think I have any.” I said shaking my head.

“Shambula,” she demanded. Her thumb all the way out to enunciate clearly.

“I’m sorry,” I smiled. “I haven’t the slightest idea what you want.

“Shambula” she said as I shut the door.

The next time I saw her, I asked "did you go to school today?" She smiled and said "oranges."