Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I used to answer : “No” or “just a little bit” each time someone would ask me If I speak English very well. Although my classmates and teachers agreed that my level was beyond the average, I was always ashamed to say a big “yes”. My big obstacle was that an important part of my english education was done through Nigerian and Ghanaian movies. Few actors were speaking as well as my mother wanted me to speak, but she thought it was a good way to begin. She corrected my “ladda” to “ladder” and my “broda” to “brother”…Unfortunately, I’m still convinced that I have the naija accent in my mouth. When I try to speak with the british accent I feel so fake. Lol! 

So when I was in my third year of Junior secondary school we were introduced to African movies. I loved them, and I’m still loving them. At first I did not notice that those films had a hand in my way of speaking English. I always answered to those admiring my ability: "my mother is an English teacher". As if there was any relation between the two facts. As if a child had automatically his parents' skills. I stopped giving this kind of answer the day I met a young lady whose mother was an English teacher too, but who couldn’t speak English to save her life. I realized that it was my own will and passion for this language that makes me spend an entire week-end watching the same movie three or six times with different people. 

The fact is when I like something, I want people around me to like it too. When I find an interesting movie, I want the others to see it. I want to see them laugh and cry or shout like I did when I was watching it alone. It was my greatest joy to come with a new movie and see the whole family gathered around TV and let me translate it in French…even if most members of the family understood English. I used to say it was for the housemaid to understand, or for the cousin spending a few days at home, or for…

My mother was happy because she used to be the one translating years ago, when I was complaining that I was not able to understand, to recognize any word, any familiar sound. Now I’m even translating some pidgin parts she doesn’t understand. 

More than 10 years later, I’m translating the preaching at church. I know now that everything is happening in somebody's life for a purpose! I guess God was preparing me to serve him that way. Each Sunday is a new challenge. General English and biblical one are not the same. In a usual conversation you do not speak about good seeds and tithes and crucifixion…But once again, I have watched so much movies about churches, I always find the right word or it’s synonym . One day I used “chief of soldier” because I did not know at this moment the word “centurion”. I said “rising from death” because I was not too sure that “ resurrection” was English or French only. Another time it was “weeds” I called “bad grass”. People are congratulating me. They say what I’m doing is not easy.

There is a difference between speaking a language, understanding it, and being able to translate second after second what somebody is saying. It’s god grace. It’s god showing that he is powerful. 

I make mistakes! Sometimes it’s like words are slipping out of my mind. A little distraction and I’m a bit confused. But I’m grateful for this opportunity, this experience. Nothing happens in somebody’s life haphazardly. From translating movies in my home to doing it in front of church’s members. Who could have imagine that ? To God be the glory!



  1. Great post!It really reminds me a lot about myself. Beinh skilled for foreign languages is a divine gift!

  2. I love your paper. I love everything you are saying. I miss very much, more than much tremendously any English or American movies. Unfortunately, I've seen no more than 2 or 3 Anglo-phone African movies. And no longer, and I've not, since setting up in Cote d'Ivoire (September 29, 1999) seen any movie. What you were doing as a child, I was doing as an au pair girl in London: seeing, watching, listening to the same movie over and over again either in movie theaters (same price how long you were staying and how many times you were watching the same screen) or spending numerous hours watching Open University (whatever the lesson or topic was) even though I love movie theaters and hate TV. But still I learned a lot. And it works. You learn and learn a lot and improve. Now the only thing I have are dreams for a improbable future and English, African, American or Australian (every single day at least 2 or 3 pages, often more) and I stick to those vital pages. I sincerely admire you or venerate? "venerate" may be too much or misleading. Many thanks.