We should talk how we want tae

Braw wee piece frae Carolyn Leckie in the National.

We should talk how we want tae

IT MUST have been a scary experience for the children involved in the school bus crash in Airdrie last week, and a relief that no-one was seriously injured.

I heard a boy being interviewed on the radio about his experience. I don’t know what age he was but he sounded very young. He had a lovely wee voice and a lovely dialect – but he kept correcting his “aye” and “naw” to “yes” and “no”, and his “wisnae” to “wasn’t”.

It made me sad that someone so young has already become self-conscious about his local tongue, and worked out that his dialect is unsuitable for BBC Radio. He already has some understanding, however vague, that to get anywhere in life he’s going to have to become bilingual.

I’m not criticising the wee boy – I do exactly the same. Make a complaint to the bank, for example, or go for a job interview, and you know you’ll never be taken seriously if you speak in your natural tongue. But there is nothing inherently superior about Received Pronunciation English. It’s tied to class hierarchies.

Sometimes words from my childhood escape out of the blue – and my daughters say they’ve never heard them before. Like stoor or mawkit. Or I tell them where to find something ben the room.

At some point, I started going for shopping instead of messages. And I’m bealin’ that my language has been subject to cultural colonisation.

The radio interview reminded me of a time, somewhere around 1979-1980, when some academic sent researchers to my school to record the exotic dialect and colloquialisms of Gorbals weans.

I remember valiantly arguing with a teacher that “gonnae” was our way of saying “please” – so failing to say “please” was not a sign of bad manners.

Instead of feeling ashamed of our diversity of languages and dialects, we should be proud. Fortunately, Gaelic is undergoing a resurgence, despite the bewildering hostility of many Scots towards a language that is so strongly rooted in our history, culture and landscape.

Gaelic should be encouraged to flourish as should the whole range of Scots dialects, from Glaswegian to Doric, along with the native languages of our migrant communities.

And we should stop correcting our weans and bairns when they spout all of their colourful varieties of language.

They shouldnae be feart tae talk the wey they want tae.

It comes at the en o this piece..


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