Read time: 3 mins

Dis Language Ah Speak

by Hannah Singh
27 June 2022

They say to come again when I speak their language,

When I can properly pronounce my vowels

without overshadowing my consonants.

 

They tell me to wash my mouth clean of my identity,

To silence my voice—

Enunciate the language of my colonizers.

 

They seek to remind me of the tragedies

my ancestors lived through, survived,

Seek to make me oppressed—

Lost in a trance-like state of being like de white people dem.

 

Well, ah seh, ‘No can do.’

You tell me fuh wak on fiyuh nah mean me guh do it—

same way me nah lose—

This tongue of mine is already a grey area;

But I beg to differ,

Colour bursting from the tip of my tongue

With every word I speak.

 

And I speak my truth in this creolese fashion,

Knowing that when marnin’ come,

I will be deemed illiterate.

 

They tell me to forget my mother tongue;

in the same sentence they remind me to be myself,

As if all that I am,

This rich cultural history,

Can be emancipated so easily.

 

They remind me that I am free;

In the same manner they think of their breakfast options for the day—

Pondering over their choices and deciding if it was the right one.

 

They tell me to bleach my language away,

As if it is easy to rid myself of this dark brown mother tongue,

As if my six

                                                              eth

                                                                ni

                                                             cities

 

Don’t combine their speak,

Turn it into a country.

The simple turn of tongue over teeth

To sound out ‘th’ in the way a serpent speak

Hisses at trespassers.

 

They call themselves the majority,

For they have no colour in dem speak or dem skin;

My language was built through a melting pot,

A background of slavery and indentureship.

 

Because de white people dem

Mix up my kulsha,

dem have tuh know dat one, one dutty build dam.

 

Every piece of my history,

This rich cultural diversity,

Holds a place in moulding the person I am

And the person I will be,

So dear white people dem,

Don’t go reminding me to

Change the way I speak

Because you think it necessary.

 

I speak my speak

And you speak yours

With your enunciated language

That ages back to centuries,

And my newborn tongue

That is still finding the key

To this home,

I have built on this

                                    cre

                                     ol

                                   ese.

About the Author

Hannah Singh

Hannah Singh teaches English Literature and Language at the Secondary level. She is currently in her third year of the English programme at the University of Guyana. Her poems have been shortlisted in local magazines, like the Guyana Annual. Her first publication, Little Brown Boy, appeared in an online magazine, Aster Lit. She is also […]

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