Conversation in Hove about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.
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BBC Voices Recordings
Hove, East Sussex
Carolyn, 1961 May 05- (speaker, female, housewife), Kam (aka Peter), 1958 March 05- (speaker, male, driving instructor), Samuel, 1987 June 16- (speaker, male, jobseeker), Thomas, 1990 Nov. 27- (speaker, male, school pupil)
Lloyd, Wendy, 1966 Sept. 15- (speaker, female)
Southern Counties Radio
[00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Description of Chinese new year celebrations in Hove, London and Oxford. Description of journey from Kowloon to Peters home town in Hong Kong. Difficulties Peter faced on coming to England aged ten. Language was only a problem when he retaliated to people and then found it difficult to express himself properly, resulting in him appearing to be the troublemaker. Discussion of Peters early experiences of England, one or two people helped him settle in but not everyone, missed Hong Kong at first but got used to British culture after about ten years, now feels much more accepted. Description of Peters post-school life, wanted to be a carpenter but the pay wasnt very good, became a trainee accountant on teachers recommendation. Description of Carolyns childhood, moved around a lot due to fathers job in Fleet Air Arm, met Peter at Lewes Technical College in Sussex, has grown to like Brighton a lot, thinks its a very diverse city.[00:11:20] Thomas describes why he likes living in Sussex. Story of taking Thomas to Hong Kong aged two, he really enjoyed it. Comment that he would like to live in Hong Kong but is also attracted to Sussex. Samuel describes his plans to live in Hong Kong for a year, likes both Sussex and Hong Kong too. Recitation of one to ten in Cantonese. Description of growing up mixed race in Sussex, sometimes got into trouble when younger then became a bit of a celebrity as he got older, likes being mixed race, proud to be part of both cultures. Thomas describes his school experiences. Carolyn describes her familys accents, each member speaks slightly differently. Peter describes his accent, people tell him it sounds like a London accent.[00:18:13] Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Mention Cantonese word meaning unwell. Remark that different generations use different words for tired. Comment that skaters have their own language of skater words. Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING.[00:26:46] Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Comment that K.O. meaning hit hard comes from language of computer games, also a boxing term, used because of Samuels interest in martial arts. Description of martial arts Samuel practices: Wing Chun and Ji Kun Do, how different forms of martial arts evolve, martial arts is a way of life, enjoyable and healthy. Explanation of forms in martial arts. Description of how language is used in martial arts from different cultures, Cantonese can be thought of as a form in itself, explanation of how characters form the language instead of letters and words, each stroke of the character teaches control, writing Cantonese characters is almost a martial art in itself. Comment that a martial art can be an expression of yourself, how you feel, not an act of violence, learning martial arts can teach you respect. Description of how religion and philosophy intertwines with martial arts, more than just physical, designed by monks, its a discipline. Mention that Samuel wants to train to work in fire brigade, martial arts helps him. Description of family joke: Peter falls asleep then when told he was asleep on being woken up says: No, no, I was just shutting my eyes![00:41:11] Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. Comment that speaker has heard words that mean left-handed but doesnt use them because they seem insulting and hurtful, for example cack-handed. Joky use of ill to mean unattractive or to describe someone dressed weirdly. Speaker finds it hard to use some words meaning insane because she has volunteered in womens mental health support group and has friends with mental health problems, thinks people can be very cruel and hurtful. Meaning and use of spastic. Comment that hurtful words meaning insane are used unthinkingly amongst friends but wouldnt say them in front of someone who actually suffers from mental illness. Remark that words can be really damaging, Carolyn has taught this to her children. Comment that speakers have thought of more words to mean unattractive than attractive, perhaps because people arent so good at giving compliments. Remark that speaker would use pregnant, not sure why people use other words and phrases.[00:54:35] Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Comment that Samuel used to think nan meant someone who looks after children not grandmother, this confused him. Remark that Chinese kinship terms are very similar to the English equivalent. Comment that Samuel didnt know meaning of chav when first heard it, its quite a new word. Description of different words used to label groups of people by the clothes they wear. Remark that society seems to be getting worse, perhaps just because Samuel is getting older. Comment that parents listen to words their children use to label groups of people and learn from them, this is a good way to learn language. Differences in language used by parents and children, Carolyn tries to learn their language in order to communicate with them, asks them to explain words to her, Samuel thinks this is probably how language changes over time from generation to generation. Meaning of slim Jim, how its used to pick locks.[01:07:22] Discussion of words used to describe WEATHER AND SURROUNDINGS. Mention that Carolyns mother uses lots of Devon words that she has picked up but half forgotten. Comment that there are so many words for things perhaps people use the simple ones so that everyone can understand. Samuel thinks that language is almost used as a defence mechanism to fit in with others, we use words that other people will understand, dont want to stand out. Story of adopting vocabulary of rapper friend when talking to him. Description of couch as opposed to settee. Comment that word for toilet varies depending on who youre talking to, whether you want to be polite. Use of my office to mean toilet when being polite. Mention terms of endearment used for children when babies that they wouldnt like to be called now that theyre older.[01:16:02] Discussion of importance of accents/dialect. Comment that they are more important than maybe they should be, first impressions mean a lot, politeness is also very important. Description of how Peter hopes his children behave linguistically, if theyre polite and treat people with respect in whatever language theyre speaking they will be able to get on well with others. Important that children enjoy and explore both Chinese and English cultures because theyre both integral to their identity. Samuel remarks that Carolyn sometimes feels left out because children all enjoy their Chinese heritage. Carolyn comments that Chinese people have a very strong identity, she had to build a lot of bridges between cultures when first married but now feels very much part of the family, doesnt actually feel left out. Comment that there will be racism because of fear of change in any culture. Describe how it was very beneficial for children to visit China. Difficulties of fitting into Chinese culture for Samuel who is half-Chinese, must have been even harder for Carolyn who is English. 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 interviewees are all members of the same family. Peter, the father, is originally from Hong Kong and thus his mother tongue is Cantonese.