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cricket-st-thomas

I didn’t have any plans during our last stop in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands), so I just started wandering away from the ship and happened upon a local cricket match.  Not knowing much about cricket and having never seen a game before, I decided it would be interesting to watch, so I found a bench in the shade and attempted to make sense of the action.  It was an enjoyable enough way to spend an hour, and I even made a new “friend.”  Joseph, a St. Thomas resident originally from Jamaica, joined me on my bench to chat.  I asked him questions about cricket and he explained the game to me, but I have to admit that my understanding of the game is still pretty murky.  This is because:

  1. cricket, as far as I can tell, is a complicated game,
  2. I could only understand about 2/3 of the words Joseph said,
  3. of the words I could understand, maybe half of them were organized into what I would consider coherent sentences.

I really had a hard time following him (my contributions to the conversation involved a lot of polite nodding and smiling) so I didn’t gain a lot of insight into the mysterious sport of cricket.  Our conversation then proceeded to take an interesting turn when Joseph asked for my phone number.  When I claimed not to have one because my cell phone doesn’t work in the Caribbean, he insisted on giving me his number.  So now, whenever I’m in St. Thomas, I can call him to chat.  Uh-huh.

So now I still have a lot of questions about cricket, and even more questions about Caribbean languages and dialects.  I don’t know if I had a hard time understanding Joseph because of his individual style of talking, or because he’s Jamaican — or maybe he had a combined Jamaican/St. Thomas accent.  But I did notice that whenever another local stopped by to chat, my understanding of the conversation went from about 66% to about 5%.  I was amazed.  My job, literally, is to understand people who speak different varieties of English, but there I was completely unable to follow a conversation.  I’m not even positive it was English – I know so little about St. Thomas that I’m not sure what the official language is.  Can someone tell me?  I discreetly recorded a couple of these conversations with my digital camera so you can hear that I’m not exaggerating – if the links are working properly you should be able to  listen to one here.

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