On receiving my weekly copy of the Mauritius Times, I would often read it through. But whenever I come across columnist P. Soobarah’s articles I sometimes read them over again. For, apart from a few personal jeremiads, the author often muses very analytically about the sad plight of languages in Mauritius. And he is perfectly right in his analyses.
We, Mauritians, very often boast ostentatiously about our being bilingual or trilingual. In reality, as rightly pointed out by Mr Soobarah, hardly 0.1% of Mauritians, including, of course, me, speak English, French or any other foreign language with the correct accent and pronunciation.
Analogically we always brag in our everyday life, show off about being strong fans of Manchester United, Liverpool or Barcelone when our own football is dying a slow death. All our stadiums are empty during football matches. Nevertheless we love bragging.
Recently Mr Soobarah mused about widespread “creolisation” in our everyday life. He did not focus on the ethnicity but on the abusive use of the language. We must not forget that Information Technology is playing a very important part in the world today with its gamut of business processing, e-mails, call centres, etc.
Learning languages at all levels in our institutions, invariably focuses mostly on the written aspects while overlooking the spoken one. Very sadly, even at our University level, Senior Lecturers and the whole Mauritian elite are answering interviews mostly in Creole.
Our Francos, who used to speak their lingua franca in yesteryears, are also resorting to Creole just to keep up with the trend.
Very often our politicians, though in presence of either French or English speaking foreigners, impolitely answer interviews only in Creole, to the utter discomfiture of the foreign guests or delegates.
Mr Soobarah, in a previous article in the Mauritius Times, reminisced about the days when most of us used to speak French, no matter if it was sometimes broken, in such places as hospitals, schools, police stations, etc.
This was of course a plus and we must not forget that our neighbours in Reunion are too far ahead in written and spoken French
The Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) too has jumped on the bandwagon by interviewing every Mauritian indiscriminately in Creole. Whenever some English-speaking foreigners speak to the MBC journalists, the MBC makes it a point to muffle the English sounds and dub them either in French or Creole. Instead, the MBC could do a better service to us all, students, teachers and the Mauritian people at large, by allowing us to be exposed to the original languages, Oriental or European only by subtitling the answers in, say, French.
So not only Mr Soobarah, but all of us have a cause to show concern about the ever dwindling exposure to foreign languages. And we have so many speaking unions which are complacently happy with abusive creolisation, to the detriment of many more useful foreign languages.
* Published in print edition on 8 August 2013