I just remembered something that happened while I was enjoying a Cooper’s Pale Ale at my local pub during my last field trip.

One of the locals, a white woman who will remain anonymous (mostly because I can’t remember her name and have no partcular interest in doing so anyway), started a conversation with me about the language I was researching (which will also remain anonymous). When I mentioned how endangered it was (less than 10 speakers) she claimed that was nonsense and that she had heard all the kids speaking the language.

It turned out to be a lengthy, uncomfortable argument whose impact was lessened only by the inebriating effects of a schooner of pale. She was adamant (you know the word adamant originally described a fictional gem that was unimpenetrable by any force?) that what she’d heard them speak was the language I was researching. I was equally adamant, but correct, that she had not heard the language and that the kids were speaking Kriol, and not even a very heavy version of it.

It amazes me that Kriol can sound so different to English that it can be mistaken as an Aboriginal language. Granted, this woman wasn’t linguistically inducted, but she had been living in the territory her whole adult life. It certainly helps those of us who have to defend Kriol from incessant attacks on its claim to being a language, rather than a ‘bastardisation’ (one of my most-despised words).

It also disillusions me that she couldn’t understand a word.