Thursday, September 15, 2016

The "Coke"

Living in a foreign country whose official language is English, you might think that I wouldn't have any problems communicating. However, it was immediately apparent that Ugandans often struggled to hear and understand my American English 'accent.' It wasn't long before I would 'adjust' my accent, somewhat unconsciously, to more of a "Ugandan" English accent in order to have successful communication with my Ugandan friends. After living here for over six years, you would think that I would have this Ugandan English accent "down." Well, I don't know if that will ever really happen. Just last week, I received a telephone call from a Ugandan friend who was in need of money. She wanted to know if I would buy her 'coke,' at least that's what I "thought" I heard. I was confused. How would buying a Coca-cola (Coke) from her help her out with money? I continued to attempt to clarify what she wanted to sell me. After some frustration on both of our parts, I told her I would call her back. I went to get another Ugandan friend who could speak with her in Lugandan, if needed, to clarify what she needed me to buy. (It is not unusual for Ugandans to approach multiple friends when they are in need of money. It is part of the 'community' orientation here in this society. Each one contributes what they can toward the need and in turn, when they are in need, they may ask the same individual for a contribution in return. My friend wasn't looking for a hand-out either. She wanted to sell me something and I often buy such things whether I need them or not in order to help them out.) My two friends talked and had quite a good laugh at this mzungu (white man/woman). She didn't want to sell me a coke, but a cock (rooster)! Here in Uganda, a short 'o' vowel sound often sounds more like a long 'o' vowel sound and I wasn't applying my knowledge of the Ugandan accent very well. It was a good reminder that I am still learning and probably will never stop learning how to communicate well here. My friend sold me her cock for an inflated price (as expected) and I shared him with another friend that we know who is struggling to make ends meet. Community - so glad to be a part of it. Ugandan English accent - will I ever learn?