Conversation in Gloucester about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.
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Akhtar, Nasreen, (speaker, female, ex-army officer), Donel, Lisa, 1950 June 29- (speaker, female, archaeologist and community heritage officer), McKenzie, Rupert, 1956 Nov. 03- (speaker, male, youth worker, artist and musician), Patel, Mahmood, 1953 Sept. 29- (speaker, male, social worker), Gurney, Agnes, 1946 Jan. 17- (speaker, female)
Durrant, Joanna, 1981 Oct. 12- (speaker, female)
[00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Mention Jamaican pronunciation of words beginning with ‘th’. Discussion about using different languages with different people/in different situations. Description of when/to whom he would use Rastafarian/English/Jamaican greetings, speaking Patwa. Speaking mother tongue to children at home. How language you use carries clues about your background, skill involved in choosing words appropriately when have choice of languages to use, importance in delivery of speech to convey meaning correctly. Comment that she uses more Chinese languages when she sees Chinese people in United Kingdom (UK) now than in the past. Mention being unable to differentiate between regional dialects/accents on first moving to UK. [00:10:44] Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. Mention “buzz words” he used within his group of friends when young, comment that young people learn new words from media/music these days. Mention different ways of saying ‘goodbye’. [00:15:36] Discussion about how young people speak today. Young people understanding but being unable to speak Jamaican Patwa, having their own version. Mention ways to open conversation in Jamaica, how pace of life has affected speech. Worry at second and third generation children being unable to speak their mother tongue, enjoyment of speaking/hearing mother tongue. Power of sharing language/accent with other people, link between language and heritage/culture/religion. Mention desire for grandchildren to learn mother tongue though knowing English is important too. [00:22:07] Description of reason why Russian grandparents chose not to speak Russian after moving to United States, mention languages she speaks. Discussion about value of language you choose to use, reasons for using various languages available to them, part played by migration in reconstructing life in another country. Language of Bollywood/Hindi films, use of formal/informal Gujarati, how language links to traditions (not culture) and family/village kinship in India. Description of complex family linguistic history as third generation overseas Chinese, mention that her children speak only English. [00:30:02] Description of difference in use of language by/to men/women in Muslim Gujarati community, how wives/husbands address each other, how language takes children back to their roots. “Poetry of communication” by being creatively indirect, comment that this attracts people to Bollywood films. Description of learning Gujarati/Hindi/Urdu later in life after moving to Bradford prompted by family, learnt by watching Hindi films, similar to young people listening to language of music today: becomes part of important traditions of particular generation. [00:34:37] Continuation of discussion about language used by young people today, change in meaning of words for example “nigger”. Description of language used by Rastafarians: “word sound and power”, negative connotations of word ‘black’ in English, how these have been changed, the power of words. Comment that English language has history of changing and absorbing words from other languages. Mention different meanings of ‘wicked/safe/sound/rude/sick’. Anecdote about daughter offending uncle in Pakistan by using Gujarati word that isn’t offensive at all when translated into English. Mention pronunciation of English words in Jamaica, difference in addressing uncle in English/Gujarati. Comment that use of English links to class structure of society. [00:46:35] Comment that it’s more important that children use language politely and with manners than the actual accent/language they use because a person’s use of language reveals their level of education/family background immediately: language is a representation of yourself. Mention connotations attached to speaker’s American accent as opposed to her mother who grew up just 12 miles away. Discussion about using English language in England as part of “minority communities”, difference between English language learnt in Pakistan and language spoken by English people in England, Comment that children should be taught to speak the “right way”. Attitudes towards ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ (British television comedy sketch show) and ‘Monsoon Wedding’ (Hindi film). [00:53:49] Discussion about how language reveals self-identity/influences the way others perceive you, experiences of discrimination made about his appearance rather than his speech which can be very English if he wants it to be, good and bad experiences of trying to get jobs. Mention social mistakes he has made in England. Discussion about using language as a tool, using language he learnt at grammar school to rise in estimation of peers, speaking politely in dole queue and getting through quickly, using language in British way. [01:02:20] Discussion about language representing culture, not being able to find appropriate words in English language to teach children cultural values, confusion when daughter uses English words. Nuances of differences in meaning between British and American English, anecdote about American woman’s expectations of British culture/language, difficulty of translating Yiddish sayings into English. Discussion about language creating generation gap between minority ethnic parents and children in UK, how communication can be a barrier between them. [01:09:21] Description of moving away from “multiculturalism” towards generation of children who are becoming more integrated into British culture, positive ways to move forwards, how attitudes towards life/values have changed over generations of family. Comment that Gloucestershire has diverse communities but not tensions/misunderstandings that have occurred elsewhere. Comment that communication can overcome generation gap. Discussion about possible solutions to generation gap, how vocabulary reflects a person’s interests and causes people to group together. [01:15:30] Discussion about change in social structure/family system in UK, how this affects behaviour of children and language they use at school. Difference in family structure in societies speakers come from and society in UK, how this affects language used within home/language used to describe familial relationships. How society in UK has changed over last 40 years in terms of working/socialising, how this has affected use of their mother tongue, language becoming throw-away/fragmented/not holistic. Fast-paced changes in society making it hard for people to adapt, older generations helping younger people in community. [01:30:48] Discussion about modern language that has empowered young people, children being more demanding of their parents. How structure of society has changed: no main leaders these days due to blame culture that affects innovation and creativity, people not taking responsibility for taking opportunities for example in choice of education. Importance of communication and language used, communicating with parents about how they spent their time when young. Difficulty at passing on experiences to next generation because they have different frame of reference. Comment that her children need to hear parents express their love for them in words which she finds strange. Mention different expectations in saying ‘please/thank you’ in Asian/Jamaican/British culture. Mention old-fashioned customs/manners they still follow that young people these days no longer observe. Comment that Chinese communities aren’t so cohesive: standard of behaviour varies depending on person’s background. [01:35:36] Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING. Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Comment that in some areas of Gloucester people say ‘her’ instead of ‘she’. Mention inability to use ‘baby/babe’ to describe ‘young desirable female’. Discussion about English saying ‘charity begins at home’ which one speaker thinks doesn’t make sense. Speakers re-introduce themselves.
Recording made for BBC Voices project of a conversation guided by a BBC interviewer. The conversation follows a loose structure based on eliciting opinions about accents, dialects, the words we use and people's attitude to language. The five interviewees all work in the city centre - most are employees of the city or county council, and know each other through work and social circles.