A Doctor Nursing His Sick English

It is a Thursday evening in our dusty Kigali neighborhood. My sister is watching a movie as he talks to a boy/man on the phone.

“I didn’t know that you have school today. But it’s fine. I’ll see you tomorrow.” she is saying. For the next five minutes, she remains on the phone talking about whatever lovers talk about. Finally, before she hangs up, she reminds him the undying love she has for him.

She walks into her room, brings out her charger, and plugs it in a corner of the living room. To start a conversation, I ask her since when she started dating students. In her reply, here is what I learn:

Her boyfriend is not self-employed but he has one of those jobs where you don’t complain too much about your boss. He works as a radiologist. He is in his mid-thirties, but his car is older. The fact that he has a car and because he buys my sister things our parents would never buy her is maybe why she is lost on him completely. She wants it to get serious between them; some nights in her dreams she sees them getting married.

He understands the essential truths of the city, and that’s why months ago he enrolled in one of those English schools in town where they teach you that pronouncing the ‘t’ in water is too mainstream, and that not pronouncing the ‘o’ in hot as an ‘a’ is a felony.

He knows that you learn by practice. He never uses Kinyarwanda in their everyday conversations, unless he wants to make things very clear because he can never do that in English.

“He has improved a lot. He no longer nods sleeplessly to whatever he is told as long as it in English. At first it was terrible, even trying to understand the English news on TV gave him a headache,” my sister says; and we call it a night.

In the morning, when I’m using her phone trying to find mine, she receives a text that reads. “Morning sweaty. I don’t see you today. My car need reparation. The mechanician give to me two days.”

I almost laugh, but then I remember that he speaks another foreign language in which I cannot even come up with an acceptable sentence.



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