During my semester in Dakar, Senegal, with the School of International Training, I carried out a month-long field research project entitled Sociolinguistic Values and Attitudes of Female High School Students in Dakar. My goal was to understand how young female high school students in Dakar valued their mother languâge, be it Wolof, Sereer, Pulaar, or any other of the 36 or so Senegambian languages spoken in the country, and French, and what their thoughts and attitudes were towards each one. I wanted to find out if French was seen in their eyes as a remnant of the colonial period or as something necessary to connect them to other parts of the world, and if their mother tongue was their source of pride connecting them to their people and past.
I conducted interviews & focus groups and handed out questionnaires to about 50 females students at two different Dakar high schools. One of these schools was Lycée Parcelles Assainies, right outside of Dakar proper.
The students at the Lycée Parcelles Assainies were fantastic. They whole-heartedly filled out my questionnaire, and even the boys who weren’t asked to participate (only had a month, needed to focus on girls!) were interested in my study and put in their own two cents. I ended up teaching an impromptu English class, and it was very apparent that Lil’ Wayne and co. had made a smash amongst these kids, because when I asked them if they had any general vocabulary questions, they asked about the word “ain’t” and what a “snitch” is.
Then we were regaled with a lovely rendition of “Redemption Song”.
Some of the girls came up to me after class and invited me to attend the afterschool English Club. My mind thought back to my New York high school’s “French Club”, which consisted of some nerds in berets making crepes once a semester in Madame Desimone’s room. But I arrived to find a room JAM PACKED, literally spilling out of the classroom, with extremely enthusiastic lyrically and musically inclined students who spoke impeccable English. “The EC”, as they referred to it, was taken very seriously—with no teacher present, the students did their own exercises on the board, quizzed each other on vocabulary and gave short speeches.
They had even invited a fellow English Club from another Dakar school to come collaborate! But the best part were the songs they sang, great lyrics that got all the kids up and moving. I lost the lyrics that I had written down, but Here is “English Lovers”:
Happiness, brotherhood, just life, just say good bye…
Dear English lovers, dear mothers and fathers…
Happiness, our sisters, our brothers, everybody
So say good bye…
We just wanna want you to know, wanna want you to feel,
How deep this comes from our hearts…
Once again, thanks a lot, wonderful
So say good bye…
And here is EC meets Backstreet Boys!
All you people come to see come to see
A new generation of the place to be
Everything’s so dark, we can make it bright
Don’t slow down it’s larger than life
If you want to do something good for your EC, do it well!
A big shout out to the kids in Monsieur Conté’s English class and in the English Club of Lycée Parcelles Assainies! Jere jef et jamm rekk!!