Remembering Who You Are …. .

After a long ride, I have come to understand how important accent and dialect are and I’d like to tell you why.

Although I currently live in Spain, any UK native will tell me that I am a Geordie, though I am not.  Although I was brought up only twenty miles or so south of Geordieland (the Newcastle area in the north-east of England), I am a colliery girl and I therefore speak ‘pitmatic’ but, nevertheless, as regards to accent and dialect, my comments are not affected by this separation.

At the age of eleven, while playing in the schoolyard just outside the teachers’ staffroom, someone had shouted “haway man!”  For those who don’t understand the north-eastern accent, this means ‘come on (with me)’.  In the classroom some half an hour later, the teacher asked “Whooooo was that shouting ‘haway man outside the staffroom’?”  It was me, though I didn’t admit to it.

At the age of eighteen, and married, I made a conscious decision that I did not want to speak with the accent I had and, by the age of about twenty five, I was able to make sure that every word ending ‘ing’ did indeed sound like that, other than ‘un’ as it did in my accent.  ‘Gowun’ became ‘going’, ‘makun’ became ‘making’ and so on.  I never did realise that ‘I’m’ came out as ‘ahm (like ‘arm’) and still does to this day.

Forty years later, and living in Spain, in an area where very few English people live, a couple came into our regular bar.  He was from Durham, about fifteen miles from where I was brought up and, after speaking with him for about an hour, I left for home.  Upon arrival, I was disgusted with myself because, all of a sudden, I realised that I had indeed been copying his accent and I felt an urgent need to  hopefully bump into him again, so as to apologise.

But then I realised that I hadn’t been copying him.  My native pronunciation  seemed to have arrived out of the blue and, in truth, was a natural lapse into my own mother pronunciation.  It felt so wrong but, on later occasions when I have met with people from the north-east of England, or when I return to visit family, there it is again, just waiting to be oozed into existence.

A few years ago, and after this aforementioned event, I read about a UK journalist who had lived in the USA for many years.  He said that he found that, when visiting England, his native UK pronunciation always popped out to play and, more interestingly, when in England but talking about his life in the USA, he spoke with an American accent.

Language is an incredible thing and I have learnt that you can’t leave your real self behind.  Now, at the age of retirement, I do wish that I spoke with my native accent, though I am so pleased to know that it does return now and then, to remind me who I am.

 

 

 

 

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