Speak English!

by Barbara Ann Oliver

[Editor’s note: Barbara is in Myanmar (formerly, Burma) where Internet access is restricted. She asked us to post this latest entry.]

G’day Mates! How ya going on? Feeling like a bit of tucka? Just grab a cupa, and Bob’s your uncle. Add a bickie or a chockie, and you’re a box of fluffy ducks!

The first time I moved to Winona, Miss., to work with the Choate family in 1972, I noticed that when Betty sang, “This World Is Not My Home”, that at the end of the first verse, where it says, “and I can’t feel at home in this world any more”, Betty was singing the word “world” with two notes instead of one. When I pointed out that there was only one note for the word “world”, she replied, “But you can’t say wor-ld in one syllable!”

Come to find out, there were lots of words that she could not pronounce in one syllable! Oddly enough, J.C. is totally lacking in Southern accent. Betty, on the other hand, got a double dose!

Several years ago, a brother from Ghana went to New Delhi. During his attempt to talk to Betty, they discovered that they could not understand each other. So, Sister Elzy joined them and began to translate for him what Betty said and visa versa. The funny thing was, they were all three speaking English!

Sunny David, the Indian preacher in New Delhi, who has been associated with the Choates for about 35 years and has been to the States (mostly the southern ones), was preaching in English at a seminar in India. English is the predominant language, since there are over 400 languages spoken in India. One of the brethren came up to him afterwards and asked, “How did you get your southern accent?”

Throughout the trip, in every country – India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore – understanding what people were saying has been difficult, even though we were all speaking English.

When we got to New Zealand, I just knew that my problems with language would be over. After all, these were native English speakers! Everywhere else, English had been the second language. So we should have no problems in New Zealand, right?
One of the ladies in the Palmerston North congregation came up to me and said that she and her husband were going to attend college in the US at “Caans or,” she asked, “is it Cans?” I looked quite confused, because I had never heard of Caans or Cans, Tennessee. I asked Frances Walker to come over to clarify. She said, very plainly, “Caans”. Still confused, I asked her to spell it. She slowly spelled out “K-A-R-N-S”.

In Tasmania we actually got to do a little traditional vacationing. Betty had a Saturday seminar and J.C. had to preach on Sunday and Tuesday night, but other than that, we were free for three whole days! Dennis and Shirley Gresham took turns squiring us around the island of about 500,000. It was wonderful! The Christians in Hobart were all lovely.

Which reminds me. Another interesting thing about New Zealand and Tasmania were the men. Big, burly guys were always observing, “My, that is quite lovely!” or, “We had a lovely time.” It was very cute.

We went to lunch with Ken and Jane Short before going to a wildlife park to see the kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, and such. J.C. reached into his pocket to get his wallet, but Jane stopped him and said, “My shout.” Which, being interpreted, means “my treat.”

And it has all been a great treat! We may not have understood all the words that we have heard throughout our travels, but we have understood the hearts of our brothers and sisters. Funny how love is greater than words.

Share your thoughts: