BBC Voices

Conversation in Luton about accent, dialect and attitudes to language.

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    BBC Voices Recordings

  • Recording locations

    Luton, Buckinghamshire

  • Interviewees

    Ahamed, Syed, 1978 May 03- (speaker, male, student), Ahmed, Monjour, 1984 Dec. 21- (speaker, male, Miah, Rana, 1986 May 19- (speaker, male

  • Interviewers

    Griffith, Annette, 1965 May 05- (speaker, female)

  • Producers

    Three Counties Radio

  • Abstract

    [00:00:00] Speakers introduce themselves. Discussion of words used to describe EMOTIONS. Speakers use bare to mean a lot. Discussion of words used to describe ACTIONS. Discussion of words used to describe PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES. Speakers dont have many words for drunk because they dont drink, just use drunk, thats bad enough. One speaker didnt know pissed meant drunk till he heard people use it at work, dont need to use a rude word for drunk, though it has become a normal word rather than a swear word. Discussion of words used to describe WEATHER AND SURROUNDINGS. Different word used for toilet in company of friends as opposed to family.[00:12:32] Discussion of words used to describe PEOPLE AND THINGS. Story of using Bangla word for baby as name for little children whose name speaker didnt know when playing cricket. Interviewer comments that girl meaning female partner is a West Indian term. Definition of playboy/player: man who tries to attract ladies or young girls, can be an insult depending on how it is said and who says it; Bangla alternative is a term that describes the vain hero in Indian films, can be used as an insult because other people in Luton dont understand it. Different Bengali words for maternal/paternal grandparents. In Bangladeshi the same word can be used for mother/father and mother-in-law/father-in-law. Assume male partner means gay male partner, there is no Bangladeshi word for it as gay culture does not exist there. Use Bangladeshi word for grandmother at home but if out would usually use grandma, kinship terms differ throughout Bangladesh too, people use local or idiolectal, affectionate words. Kinship terms speakers use within their families, words added to differentiate between different uncles. Never call elders by first name because its disrespectful, even older brothers, though this differs throughout Bangladesh. Discussion of words used to describe CLOTHING. Lots of schools in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh teach American English, people who work in Indian call centres talk with an American accent. Story of television programme in which an English and Indian call centre worker swapped jobs, Indian workers have to pass an English accent test to get the job to minimise racist comments from callers, even though its obvious that theyre not English. When the English worker took the test she had to make an effort to pronounce her ps and ts, Indian people always pronounce them which is why they dont sound convincingly English. Discussion of chav, seen it in the paper, the new word of the year.[00:25:02] Discussion of how speakers describe their accent. Speak differently depending on the situation, well-pronounced to make a good impression but more relaxed when with mates. Luton has its own accent, its normal, but dont realise it in Luton, in the north people can tell theyre from the south. Discussion of opinions of regional British accents. One speaker has recently arrived in Luton, doesnt always find it easy to understand the accent. Teachers and students at university in Luton use good accent but outside not everyone uses posh English, speaker tries to use British English but not always differentiated from American English in Bangladesh. Discussion of linguistic expectations people have of speakers. Young Bengalis speak Bengali badly, use Sylheti, almost a slang version of the proper Bengali language, mix it with English slang about 60/40% English/Bengali, its so intertwined they dont realise theyre mixing the two. Most Bangladeshis in Luton speak Sylheti so theres no need to learn proper Bangla. In Bangladesh you need to learn the official Bangla language if you want to get a good job or raise your position in society. Parents speak Sylheti and get annoyed if they speak English at home, use English with siblings though. Discussion of how surroundings affect speech, would pick up proper Bangla if lived in Bangladesh or Birmingham accent if moved there. Different Bangladeshi accent in Luton to Brick Lane.[00:38:15] Discussion of learning, speaking and understanding different versions of Bangladeshi. Sylheti is considered a regression from posh Bangla, Sylheti speakers can understand posh Bangla speakers but not vice versa, same with proper English and English slang. One speaker (born in Bangladesh) thinks its important to know the posh version of the language in order to represent their country, the other two (born in England) have no interest in it, cant see the point, consider themselves Bengali despite English being their first language. Comment that their first language has to be English in England in order to communicate with others. The English-born speakers have family origins in Sylhet so represent that part of Bangladesh by speaking Sylheti. Bangladesh-born speaker thinks that not learning posh Bangla will cause them to miss opportunities, the more languages you speak the more opportunities you will have.[00:47:01] Discussion of attitudes towards swearing. Speakers never swear at home but quite a lot outside. Its the way he was brought up, never heard 26 year old brother or father swear. Dont swear in Bengali, it sounds filthier because its his parents language, but swear in Bengali when talking with mates. Shocked by 5 and 6 year olds swearing heavily in English while their parents say nothing, will get worse if theyre allowed to swear at home. Everyone knows how to swear but gives children a sense of respect if restrict it at home, swearing is a bad habit and leads to other bad habits. Story of hearing friends younger siblings using filthy Bengali terms in the house, friend apologised to him. Its funny but need to discipline them; shouldnt do anything bad in front of your parents, its disrespectful. Discussion of attitudes towards Bangladeshi community in Luton. English-born speakers first language is English, people say you cant forget your roots but his roots are here. No discrimination in Luton, Bengalis are respected and are doing quite well. Discussion of being forced to learn English to get British citizenship, it only helps to know the language but not sure about pledging allegiance to the throne, unnecessary, religiously speakers pledge allegiance to no one except God; no point living in England if cant speak English, for your own sake. Need to learn basic English to get a job or will restrict yourself, in the same way as learning posh Bengali will help you get promotion in Bangladesh. Different language requirements in different countries but will have more opportunities the more languages you know. Speakers re-introduce themselves.

  • Description

    BBC warning: this interview contains strong or offensive language of a sexual nature, from the start. 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 three interviewees all live in Luton and share Bangladeshi roots. Monjour and Rana are involved in a community radio project called Bangla Nation. Syed is from Bangladesh and is studying at the University of Luton.

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