27 January, 2011
Tales from the Multiculture - A language too many
Such as the grinding cumulative alienation induced by finding yourself perpetually immersed in a sea of people either jabbering away in yer actual foreign or speaking heavily accented and often quite limited English.
Or the extent to which, as a native speaker of British English on what I consider to be my home turf, I nevertheless have to carefully tailor my vocabulary to conform to the limitations of what is essentially emerging as a distinct language, "World English", in order to be consistently understood.
And finally of accommodating to the jarring prosodic mismatches between languages, most notably exemplified by Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese, in which deeply alien tongues even the most civilized and banal conversation sounds to the English-speaking ear like the prelude to a rather nasty fist fight.
But I think it's all finally beginning to addle my brain. Sitting on the train, half-listening to the usual cacophony formed from the "local" sides of people's mobile phone calls, there was a language I could not place. The speaker was a rather scruffy young White male, greasy-haired, unshaven, leather-jacketed, who was whingeing in some not quite identifiable Germanic language into his handset. I struggled to identify it. Some dialect of Dutch perhaps? What was this strange, unfamiliar new tongue so intriguingly enriching the hyperdiversity that is London?
It was the whingeing tone that eventually gave it away. He was speaking — er — Scouse. OK, a very broad Scouse. So broad in fact that I wondered if he was actually piling it on a bit for effect. But Scouse nonetheless. And I write as one born and raised no more than 40 miles away from the heart of Scouseland, speaking a native dialect (North Manchester with a hint of Oldham) which has more in common with the debased cant of Liverpool than those of us from up the civilized end of the East Lancs Road would care (or even "cur") to admit.
Oh the shame of it.
I bet you went to Hulme Grammar before you went up your own arse. Man, you'd be happier if you came home. You could have a great house in the country here and you could big it up to the easily impressed in the friendly local. Be seeing you.