ENGLISH AS A LINGUA FRANCA
Criticism, Attitude, and Identity
Federal University of Bahia
Department of Germanic Languages
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
Researches on ELF started at the end of last century, and in Brazil, the number of productions in this area has been growing significantly just over the last few years. Along with local publications, our research group at UFBA has started a corpus project entitled Brazil Corpus of English (BraCE) whose objective is to register and analyze ELF interactions among Brazilians and people from different countries in their translingual practices.
In this section, readers will find some examples of words, expressions and grammar use that are potentially common samples of how Brazilians are developing their strategies to express themselves in English as a multilingua franca (JENKINS, 2015).
English is here, and it's ours!
HAVE X THERE ARE
"Have many churches in Salvador"
"There are many churches in Salvador".
Explanation: Because the verb THERE TO BE in Brazilian Portuguese is bluntly replaced by HAVE with the same meaning, students at different levels, though been exposed to standard English, tend to stick to the BE instance, even at higher levels.
HAVE X TO BE
"How old are you?"
"I HAVE 20 years old"
"I AM 20 years old".
Explanation: Strange as it may look, that's the way Brazilians creatively make this combination. In Brazil, we ask "how many years a person has" instead of "how old the person is". That's why more and more students tend to rely on this pragmatic feature and come up with a hybrid though weird answer. But until when will it remain weird?
THE PRONUNCIATION OF THE REGULAR PAST TENSE
It might be one of the strongest characteristics of Brazilian-accented English
THE PRODUCTION OF SYLLABLE-FINAL CONSONANT
Brazilians usually say /gudi/ instead of /gud/.
"Water of coconut of Isaías”
English is spreading all over the world. Different native speakers from central countries celebrate and, in many ways, feel proud of the fact that wherever they go, people will either know or make an effort to address them in English. But once English travels globally, it gets creatively contaminated, and, naturally, re-invented, appropriated, nativized by local communities without a historical connection with England or the United States, for example. Many non-native Englishes are flourishing and thus becoming materialized in all sorts of creative uses. Here’s one. Recently, here in Salvador, I came across a banner that read: “Water of coconut of Isaías”. I presume the coconut street-vendor wanted to call foreign tourists' attention to our famous local product as it was summer and the city is usually packed with people from different countries. In Portuguese, the sign said: "Água de coco do Isaías, beba à vontade" (Coconut milk, drink it at will). Literal translation? Maybe, but why not "Isaías' coconut milk"? Simply because "coconut milk" in Brazil, especially in Bahia, is something else. It's one of the main ingredients for a great fish or shrimp "moqueca", one of our most celebrated local dishes. Well, this way, in Brazilian English, there would be a very important difference between “coconut water” and “coconut milk”. Isaías, the street-vendor, intuitively, must be aware of it!
By Sávio Siqueira
"She gave the ninja!"
How many times haven’t we been amazed and thrilled for seeing all the incredible things a ninja can do? One of the most enticing features ninjas exhibit is certainly their extraordinary talent for deception and illusion, the capability of popping up out of nowhere and vanishing without a trace. I’ve been teaching English to Brazilians for nearly three years now and during this whole time I’ve had the chance to watch many students creatively “distort” the language in their attempt to communicate. It’s an odd – and yet beautiful - process in which they mix the language they are learning with the language they are already fluent in, therefore leading them toward the creation of a new linguistic code system. A couple of weeks ago, in one of my classes, I witnessed this very process taking place, an act of appropriation/re-creation of the English language. During a pair work activity, I noticed that a student had left the room – perhaps to have some water or go to the restroom. To make sure she was coming back, since that was an activity she was supposed to take part in, I asked the class if they knew whether she had gone home or would return, which no one was able to answer. In fact, no one, including myself, had seen her leave the room. To my surprise, as well as to the other students’, in an attempt to provide an explanation for her mysterious disappearance, one of the students in class creatively and spontaneously said: “Teacher, she gave the ninja!”. Everybody laughed a lot in response to what he’d said, but what impressed me the most was that communication properly happened. What he did was translate the informal expression used in Brazilian Portuguese “dar o ninja” into English, and use it accordingly. This expression means that, as ninjas usually do, one was able to leave a certain place without being noticed and leaving no trace behind. This new expression certainly accounts for a facet of a Brazilian variety of English that is being born. I propose a hooray for creativity!
By Felipe Ribeiro
"From the airport to the mall"
For maybe most people in the world, the expression “last call” is expected to be heard at airports or train, bus, ferry stations, and so forth. In Salvador too, but as an example of creativity and appropriation of English for local purposes, here’s the “last call” expression being used at a clothing store, alerting their potential clients that they had better hurry or they’ll miss the promotion advertised. That’s English being culturally molded and re-shaped. For sure, even those who are not well-versed in the language know what the message is telling them. Brazilian English, I would say.
By Sávio Siqueira