Dalrymple’s linguistic shame

Maugham made the same mistake

Dalrymple confesses to what he calls

a serious omission,

something which

causes me much embarrassment.

He explains that although he was more than three years in the Gilbert Islands,

I never learnt more of the language than simple questions after health.

He offers these excuses, none of which satisfy him:

  • he was never sure how long he would stay
  • it was a language spoken by only 60,000
  • it was a language with no written literature
  • the nurses and doctors with whom he had to deal all spoke English
  • his social life was almost entirely among the expatriate community

Dalrymple concludes regretfully:

It was laziness combined with an attitude of cultural superiority I should certainly have condemned in others.

The British Resident’s flag


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