Tag Archives: Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

No Fraternising

Cyril Blacket of Pinery South Australia met an Italian prisoner of war at his local church.  With good intentions, Cyril tried to communicate with the Italian farm worker, via the Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War booklet, with little success.  But Cyril felt that if he had a copy of the booklet, he might be able to make some progress.

On 3 July 1944, Cyril sent a letter to Officer-in-Charge, Defence Dept Headquarters Keswick: “I have been trying to help him but finding it very difficult to make him understand.  Such a book as you issue the prisoners would be a great help to me in conversing with him.  Could you oblige me by sending a copy along?” (NAA: D2380)

Unfortunately, Cyril Blacket’s fraternising was reported to the Deputy Director of Security and the Prisoner of War Control Officer at S3 Clare with advice and warning :

“There is a PW working for A.J. Stanley of Pinery to whom Mr Blacket may be referring.

PW are not allowed to fraternise with members of the public, PW Camp Order No. 13 Sec 68 (c).

It would be appreciated if Mr Blacket be warned accordingly.” (NAA: D2380)

nla.news-page000011034485-nla.news-article127318066-L3-b785811cd68ff4e3425003186303dfe3-0001

1943 ‘How Some Italians Will Spik Inglisc’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 3 July, p. 3. , viewed 06 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127318066

Language Lessons

It is March 1944 and Jack Stewart of Rocky Glen Muradup employs two Italian prisoners of war: Gino and Giuseppe (Joe).  There is no doubt that language would be an obstacle for both farmer and worker.

It is interesting how authorities in Western Australia approached the language barrier.

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War had been prepared and distributed by Department of Army across Australia, but HQ Western Command prepared a separate language booklet with specific industry related sentences. A great deal of effort had gone into this booklet with sections such as: rabbit extermination, shearing, cement work, work around the house.  It also contained vocabulary lists: English – Italian; Italian English.

W4 Prisoner of War Control Centre Kojonup issued a language booklet prepared by HQ Western Command.  (photos courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

It is obvious that this booklet was to assist the farmers to communicate instructions to the Italians. The phonetic pronunciation in Italian is provided.

Garizzo language 1 (3)

Instructions for Shearing including Marking and Dipping and Potato Growing

(photo courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

Giuseppe Garizzo (Joe) had an interest in learning English.  Using a dictionary, Joe would teach himself English by reading the newspapers.  In December 1944, Jack Stewart purchased a  Grammatica Encidlopedia for Joe. The receipt for the book was one Joe’s treasured possessions from that time.

Garizzo Language Book Receipt

Receipt from Foreign Library and Book Shop Melbourne

(photo courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

Possibly, Jack Stewart read an advertisement like the one below from a Perth newspaper, wrote a letter requesting a booklist for Italian and then purchased Grammatica Enciclopedia.

1944 Advertisement

1944 ‘Advertising’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 3 December, p. 7. , viewed 22 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59326615

 

Pidgin English for Italians

July 1943

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

There are many references to the Italian-English language booklet that the Italian prisoners of war were issued with.

Laurie Dwyer from Aratula via Boonah remembers Paul bringing out his book and asking Laurie to help him with learning English: “Paul used the dictionary to try to improve his English but decided that English was stupid.  There were a lot of problems with miscommunication. Paul would wait for me to return home from school and then get out the yellow book they had for English.  Pronunciation was mainly the problem. Paper and pepper sounded the same. He also had difficulty with tree and the.  They had trouble with slang like ‘give it a burl’. One morning dad and the Italians were doing some fencing.  It was time to go home for lunch so dad told them to leave the crowbar there.  The word leave was a problem and they thought dad wanted them to carry it away with them.  Dad would have raised his voice and they thought that he was angry with them.  Paul told the interpreter the next day, ‘boss got mad, I got mad’.  He thought that he would be taken away.  Things were sorted. Another time, the Fordson tractor wouldn’t start so dad went to get the draught horses.  The horses wouldn’t get into the yards and dad would have blown off steam and whatever he said, or it might have been the way he said it, Paul and Peter thought they had done something wrong.  They had a great deal of respect for dad and they didn’t want to get into trouble.  So the next time the interpreter came to the farm, they asked to find out ‘what they did wrong’.  They would explain what had happened and the interpreter would explain what had happened.” (Don’t Run Away)

Dorcas Grimmet in “We Remember: The Italian Prisoners of War 1944/45” a publication about the Italian POWs on farms in the Kingaroy district includes a page from an Italian and English Book for Italian POWs.

And we know that language classes were held in camps like Cowra and Hay.

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War was specifically published  and given to Italian POWs being allocated to farm work under the Prisoner of War Control Centre : Without Guard scheme.  Some of the sections were: Tools, Machinery, Farm Produce, Animals, Hygiene and Medical, Family, House and Conjugation of Verbs.