Saturday, May 28, 2016

Do you speak Expenglish?

Two years in South Africa and I already say EEZ It? Yuhh and Shame!
Yoh is when I’m astounded; and Yoh has come out every time I go into a shop and people think I am French!

I have a French accent - he South Africans say..
But the French, despite the flowery compliments know I don’y do their language justice. After all I’m a product of the Egyptian education system and that doesn’t position us well in life in general.

I do however, spend some time everyday in the French-speaking realm and my closest of friends are predominantly French. They speak to me in Frenglish most of the time so yeah, I get it, I picked up the accent and I fused it with some South African English. Add my Egyptian heritage to the mix + 11 years in New York to spice it up and here you have it….


There is no denying that English is the common language of Expats.  And for the fortunate expats who successfully forge the best of friendships beyond their national compatriots orbits…with Italians, Argentinians, Spanish, Germans, Brazilians … and thanks to the French school, also French; we manage to somehow craft our own special accent.

The Intercontinental spice mix gives it a flavor that is unique to expats around the world. We know it, we like it, and best of all.. We can never go wrong with it.

There is nothing that we can utter that can be classified as grammatically wrong! Because it’s all wrong.. And that makes it soooo right.  It makes it sooooo unique and soooooo us – expats, that our Expenglish becomes an inherent trait of our global identity.

Hello, my name is Laila, I am an expat and I speak Expenglish.. an all-embracing, judgment-free English that allows us to use as many foreign words as we need, gesticulate as far as our arms can extend, and make the weirdest of body movements to fill for the vernacular gaps. If I get what you want to say then you are fluent, regardless of what you actually said! I get it..  Don’t ask me how.

You know why we get it?

It’s simply because it’s the only language in the world that doesn’t carry any cultural baggage. It is not heavily impregnated with nuances and connotations. It doesn’t differentiate between old and young, man and woman, rich and poor, old money and nouveau rich or black and white. All you need is your basic knowledge of the English language, and your rich experience as an expat and you’re speaking.. Expenglish!

Two years in South Africa and I’m not worried about being understood any longer. Speaking it like the locals is no benchmark for positive integration. When I’m asked: where is that foreign accent from? I simply smile and say.. Take your pick, it’s Egyptian, American, South African and French. I’m all of those and still more to come. J