Ugandan English

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From UgandaWiki, the Uganda online encyclopedia

Ugandan English or Uganda English is the form of the English language spoken in Uganda. Although - save for the accent - Ugandans mostly use British English, this is increasingly getting localised, resulting in English, particularly spoken English, that is uniquely Ugandan.


[edit] Features

  • Incorporation of words from the local languages, especially to express ideas or feelings that cannot be or are not easily expressed in the English language. English inflections are usually used to render such words. For example, "She kwanjulad this weekend" meaning "She introdeced her husband to be to her parents this weekend". Kwanjula, which is the name of the ceremony in Luganda, is rendered as a verb in the past tense using the English ending "-d". The present continuous tense would be "She is kwajularing today" (She is marrying in a traditional ceremony today).
  • Using local words as a prefix to English words to express a particular idea or quality. E.g. "ka-man" to signify a small man and "ki-man" to refer to a big man. "Ka-" is a prefix for small and "Ki-" for big in many Ugandan languages. Note that depending on the context, the prefexes "Ka-" and "Ki-" may have a negative or positive connotation.
  • Using English words in an unconventional way. E.g. To "cut" someone meaning to avoid seeing or meeting them. To "extend" means to move over to make room for someone else.
  • Local words popularised by politicians or celebrities e.g. "kulembeka", a Luganda word which means to collect liquids or water into a container, popularised by President Yoweri Museveni to mean tapping money in any way possible to get out of poverty.
  • Downright misuse of the English language which becomes so widespread as to be accepted. This is very often due to interference from the local language. For example, many Ugandans will say "borrow me some money" when they mean to say "lend me some money." Another example is the phrase "you are lost" which is widely used to mean "I haven't seen you in a long time."
  • The use of euphemisms, either in English or applying words in the local languages, to say things considered too strong, indecent or embarrassing in the local cultural context E.g. "To go for a short call"; "to susu" to "do susu" for visiting the toilet.
  • Direct translation of local proverbs. E.g. "He of his power does not [start] early", which means a person who is assured of their ability to do something can afford to be relaxed about it, or they can take their time to get started.
  • Phrases that are (wrongly) presumed to be from standard English. The most notorious is "to go for a short call" which is a Ugandan euphemism for visiting the toilet, but is presumed by most Ugandans to be a phrase of standard English. Another example is the saying "man eateth where he worketh" which is presumed to be a direct quote from the Bible, but is probably the Biblical statement "by the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread" (Genesis 3:19) turned on its head.
  • Popular or classic brand names that are used generically, e.g pepsi for carbonated soft drinks, vespa for scooters, colgate for toothpaste, and jeep (from the Jeep Wrangler) for off-road vehicles with removable tops. One may talk of a "jeep Land Rover".
  • Substituting the names of particular countries with those of their renowned cities, e.g. United Kingdom my be referred to as London, Italy as Rome and New York as the United States. "He lives in London" could mean he lives in the city of London or he lives in the United Kingdom.

[edit] Status

Ugandan English is not officially recognised. Though acceptable in verbal or informal communication, it is not considered good English in formal communication, to the extent that it can be distinguished from standard English.

[edit] Dictionary

Click here for words and phrases of Ugandan English.

[edit] External Links

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