Speech habits that make me go what? Make me go crazy

Posted: September 20, 2007 in Blog

Sentence structure is very important to a journalist– not just in writing stories, but also during interviews. Time and time again, someone you are interviewing will say something that expresses a sentiment that is perfect for the article, but they structure it in a way that makes it totally unusable.

Usually you can work through this. Maybe ask the question in a different way or, at times, straight out tell them that you find what they just said very interesting, but perhaps it can be expressed in a different way.

Regardless, there is usually always a solution. But here I have run into a new and different challenge.

For whatever reason, it is very common for people here to ask a question in making their point.

Example:

“The government’s inaction during the floods has made us what? Made us very frustrated.”

It’s about that time during the interview when Chris develops an eyebrow twitch. Staving off homicidal tendencies, I re-ask the question.

The interviewee nods and responds, “It’s true, the lack of government presence here is what? Is a travesty.”

And so it goes… I’m not sure if it has something to do with the language structure of the local languages, but the pattern occurs throughout Uganda, and yet there are over 30 local languages throughout the country and they can’t ALL have the same structure… right?

This morning I was walking down the hill to the main road by my house to get a matatu (taxi van) downtown, when Joseph, my boda driver, pulled up beside me and shot me a friendly glare, but a glare nonetheless. I’ve been a bad boda customer of late– I’ve been out of town and also taking fewer bodas, so haven’t been calling Joseph for rides as often as I used to.

As I hopped on his motorcycle he kept on talking. “I wondered why Chris didn’t call me anymore. He has my what? He has my number.”

I patted him on the shoulder as we drove off, glad that I wouldn’t be quoting Joseph any time soon.

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