I’m torn over this story about Colley Lane Primary Schoolin Halesown ‘banning’ Black Country dialect in their schools. First of all, let’s look at the list:
- ‘They was’ instead of ‘they were.’
- ‘I cor do that’ instead of ‘I can’t do that.’
- Ya’ instead of ‘you.’
- ‘Gonna’ instead of ‘going to.’
- ‘Woz’ instead of ‘was.’
- ‘I day’ instead of ‘I didn’t.’
- ‘I ain’t’ instead of ‘I haven’t.’
- ‘Somefink’ instead of ‘something.’
- ‘It wor me’ instead of ‘it wasn’t me.’
- ‘Ay?’ instead of ‘pardon?’
Well, 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 in there I don’t think are specific to the Black Country, you’d hear those pronunciations in kids (and adults) in other parts of the country. While I’ve lived in the Black Country since 2003 (Coseley briefly, then Wednesbury, now Wednesfield), prior to that I was brought up in Bedfordshire, went to uni in Exeter, then lived in Dorset. These were all places I didn’t really perceive as having ‘an accent’, which probably means they were all quite similar.
I suppose ‘accent’ is different to dialect anyway. But some of the above listed – ‘they was’, ‘gonna’, etc – when I hear those spoken very heavily, then it grates with me. Call me a snob, but because I don’t talk like that, it jars. My son’s just started at school locally and when I hear him making those kinds of mistakes, I will correct him.
…I love the fact that both our kids, from going to nursery and school, are developing Black Country accents. Hopefully that doesn’t sound too patronising, but I’m happy because it means we know they’re communicating with people in school, making friends, and it makes them part of where they live. And really, we can’t take that away from them.
In fairness, the people that hear their accent most are friends and family from softer, more southern climes. We notice it when they ask to go ‘dow-en’ stairs, or when they ask for ‘Mommy’. I’m not sure how much our local friends would pick it up, and would probably say they’re not doing it right until they talk about getting the ‘buzz’ into ‘tow-en’. They definitely haven’t started doing the classic ‘are’ / ‘am’ replacement, and I’m not even sure that’s local to Wednesfield anyway.
Anyway, unhelpfully, it looks like I may be stuck up here on the fence for now.