Little Bee (The Other Hand)
Language and Communication Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
No, it is not the Queen's crown and scepter that rule in your land. It is her grammar and her voice. That is why it's desirable to speak the way she does. (1.6)
Little Bee is very concerned with the English language. While in the detention center, her idea that learning Standard British English will give her entrance into British society gives her a kind of brittle hope. If she can talk the talk, maybe she'll be able to make it.
Learning the Queen's English is like scrubbing off the red varnish from your toenails the morning after the dance. (1.7)
As in many former British colonies, English is the official language of Little Bee's home country, Nigeria. Nigerian English is a hybrid of Standard English and African languages. As Little Bee discusses, it's much more ornamental and experimental than Standard English. So, she actually feels as though she's betraying her own language when she learns Standard English. But, most contemporary linguists will tell you that it's not necessary to give up one language in order to learn another.
I learned your language in an immigration detention center, in Essex, in the southeastern part of the United Kingdom. Two years, they locked me in here. Time was all I had. (1.7)
Little's Bee's study of Standard English was a bittersweet antidote to the boredom and monotony of life in prison. If she hadn't felt like she was having to trade one English for another, learning the new English might not have been so uncomfortable for her.