“…the inferno incinerated his domicile to the ground before the firemen were called”
When I was in class six the only heavy weight word that I could comprehend was ‘consequences’. This only because the teacher was always using it while hauling warnings at us “you pupils, you making noise at that corner, you will face the consequences”. For a whole year, I thought that this word was spelled as ‘Kwenzakwenzis’, owing to the teacher’s pronunciation. I dint know the meaning of any big words. But I wrote big words. My compositions were always pregnant with terms and expressions, none of them applying.
I do not know how your Primary School experience was like as far as writing compositions is concerned. Yesterday after going through my class 5 compositions, and comparing them with some that I got from kids we are working with in Kibera, I am tempted to storm the KIE offices to set someone on fire because they are the ones who approve these textbooks. You do not need 4 years in campus to learn that a kid needs to know the difference between ‘I am’ and ‘am’, ‘there’ and ‘their’ before learning how to spell ‘galloping ‘and ‘paroxysm’
In case you are wondering what I am going on about, let me fill you in. English teachers in primary school used to and still do give composition notes, pages, and pages of ‘useful dramatic expressions and Hyperboles”. Very dramatic indeed. These expressions are expected to be used in writing compositions; inserted here and there regardless of whether they make sense or not. Quality compositions to them are linguistically obese, bursting in a ballooned phrasal usage. The composition with the most unrecognisable words gets the best marks. Children in school thus spend quality time with dictionaries, fishing out ‘new words’ to use in compositions. Well, here are some expressions I fished out from my compositions. Some of these ‘dramatic expressions’ have failed to make sense to me while others are simply too overweight for a primary school kid.
– The atmosphere was pregnant about to deliver rain and birds
– I sat there, confused like a pregnant chameleon sitting on a merchant box waiting for its master
– tears of despondency cascaded down my ruddy face
– my heart was beating spasmodically in my chest threatening to tear my skinny body apart
– the day had began well, credence to the old adage; a good beginning makes a good end”
– She was a shot plump woman with curves and had a gap between her upper branches.
– Tears of melancholy poured out from my eyes like water from a faulty tap.
– Lizards were falling from roofs to the floor as if they were drank.
– The rats were easily suffocating in their holes so they came out for fresh air.
Whatever happened to ‘as poor as a church mouse?’ Some of these comparisons are completely nonsensical. Do not get me wrong. I like the imagination in these ‘very dramatic expressions’. However, when we leave some bricks on the base disjointed , don’t you think this wall is going to come tumbling down? What is a word like ‘spasmodically’ doing in a class 5 textbook? Probably the reason why we are having these language problems and flashing a ‘kizungu ilikuja na meli’ license is because we have so many loose bricks on our walls. I for sure know that Mr Makau would have driven me to a ditch of linguistic blindness were he the only shepherd in this field. But he still left his dents on me.
As I have said before, I have had an experience with these kids, seeing as I studied English and Literature and it called for me to go for teaching practise. I have taught form ones who have been tempted to spill over that linguistic madness into High School; the use of ‘bombastic’ words even when they can’t construct a simple sentence explaining who they are. Probably the reason we are looking for an alternative in the ‘ xoxery Lingua Franca’ is because writing wasn’t much of an experience for us. I am tempted to blame these experiences for our ‘pans intended’ and ‘I have quite smoking’.
But before we do that, here are some two analogies I picked from an email forward that you might like:-
– He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
– The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while
So how was your experince in Primary School writing?