Catch the Pidgin at the BBC: Digital Flight of Fancy?

Delighted to see that the BBC has started a Pidgin Digital service for West African audiences.

BBC introduces Pidgin for Digital Audiences in West Africa (Image source: BBC)

BBC introduces Pidgin for Digital Audiences in West Africa (Image source: BBC)

I’ve long been fascinated by the notion of pidgin (or a pidgin language). For some of course, it’s a betrayal of “pure” language learning and standards. Fundamentally, however, pidgin is a popular and simple way for people to communicate with each other when they don’t share a common language. What’s wrong with that? Pidgin is a lingua franca in its own right. The use case is nothing that Google isn’t trying to do with the Google Pixel Earbuds!Pidgin is a lingua franca in its own right. Click To Tweet

What’s Pidgin?

So what is pidgin, exactly? Well, the BBC describe it, in this context, as “a mix of English and local languages enabling people who do not share a common language to communicate”.

We might think of it as a kind of hybrid oral “gisting”. It’s certainly fascinating to listen to! Languages and how people communicate evolve all the time. Check out the difference between a Pidgin and Creole language for example.

The Irish Pidgin Fancier

As an Irish person and speaker of “urban” Irish (or Gaeilge – not “Gaelic”), pidgin resonates strongly with me. There’s also clear evidence of a pidgin emerging with the Irish language. This development was pointed out by Brian Ó Broin (no relation) in this article from the Irish Times, “Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí“, a few years ago. Brian has also written about the changing demographics of the Irish language for MultiLingual.

Pigeon Man on Dublin's Liffey Boardwalk (Image source: Ultan O'Broin)

Pigeon Man on Dublin’s River Liffey boardwalk (Image source: Ultan O’Broin)

Perhaps, the pidgin approach offers a way for the Irish language to thrive in rural Gaeltacht as well as urban areas and a way for all Irish language lovers to all communicate more (until we agree on emoji). Certainly, as pointed out by Irish President Michael D. Higgins recently, the compulsory approach to teaching the Irish language in Ireland has failed.

A more human-centric way of encouraging people to communicate using Irish is needed. Of course, Duolingo can help address our Irish language learning requirements too! Again, it’s voluntary. (Oh, “Catch the Pigeon“?)A more human-centric way of encouraging people to communicate using Irish is needed. Click To Tweet

Ultan Ó Broin

About Ultan Ó Broin

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), Oracle applications user experience senior director, works from a plane on evangelizing the importance of usability to Oracle’s development community and leading usability research into how enterprise apps users work globally. With over two decades experience and insight into globalization issues, he has an established track record of published articles, papers, presentations, blog articles and tweets on just about every aspect of the industry. He is currently pursuing a PhD, researching information technology and accessibility. Any views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views of Oracle, unless explicitly stated.

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