This year, the day falls on Monday 5th November. I don’t know what I’m going to do to ‘celebrate’. Probably write several posts here and then what?
It’s unfortunate that even if I tried to bring it to the attention of my employer and university, they’d look at me like I had four heads. Several people are already convinced I’m “Romanian”. What would “Romani language” even mean to them??
How about we start with what it means to me…
I guess I didn’t really know anything until I started school and my broken English and Romani words were corrected daily by our formidable teacher. I realized that I spoke something that was not considered “right” and that I had to learn the language the people in the shops and on the radio spoke. But, the other kids – some of them at least – were like me. They made mistakes when reading or writing. Instead of apple they’d yell out “phabaj!” and have to quickly correct themselves. I learned that you weren’t supposed to make mistakes and cross cultural lines. Calling your teacher “bibi” by mistake was not something to repeat a second time.
I learned that speaking Romanes made me “stupid” and put me in the ‘remedial’ class.
The thing was, it wasn’t just at school. My mother and her parents didn’t like us speaking Romanes. They seemed to thrive on silence. They hardly spoke; they never told stories; they never said who they really were.
My father’s family were, on the other hand, loud, singing, story-telling, effervescent …
At some point though, I became acutely aware of how the outside world perceived us and so most of the time in school I became silent. I stopped speaking Romanes altogether when I was in my early teens. My deputy headmistress told me that unless I learned “proper English” I’d never get anywhere.
I guess I stopped speaking to my grandmother as much. Or to anyone who spoke Romanes.
I didn’t speak it at all until a few years ago. Until I decided I was done with trying to hide (and failing miserably). Trying to pour myself into this mold that I could never fit was so… tiring. But, I’ve found that trying to break out is equally as difficult.
No one sat me down and said, “honey, you’re Romani and the language you speak is…” I have had to piece together words and phrases and learn that we spoke certain dialects and so forth. I’ve learned that my dialect is actually a terrible mishmash of two dialects with a lot of Anglo-Romani influence. I learned that it’s not like riding a bike. I learned that the speakers of other dialects hold you to their standards and are as dismissive of a broken speaker as a broken car.
I learned to be ashamed of the sounds and words that awkwardly crashed into sentences.
I don’t know where I stand on any of this right now.
Being Romani, to me, has increasingly become about being able to fluently express even the most complex of ideas in my OWN language (or languages).
But then, ipen na džanav.