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23 September 2014
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The Voices Recordings

About this interview
Portuguese speakers Three of Boston's Portuguese-speaking community talk about the perils of learning English from films and how baffling the British can be.

Vasco Pacheco, Rui Silva, Cecilia Pacheco,

Click on names to find out more about the participants.

Relationship of interviewees: Cecilia and Vasco are married, Rui is a friend

Where: Boston, Lincolnshire

Language of interview: English
About this interview
Voice clip 1
The group talk about the dangers of learning English from American textbooks and from the movies. The British use very different words for some things, which can lead to comic misunderstandings.

Voice clip 2
The group discuss using nonsense and invented words as terms of affection - why do people call complete strangers "doll", "love" or "flower"?

More clips from this interview

Rui Silva, Local government officer
Rui thinks discussing the weather is a great British invention - it means you always have something to say.

Cecilia Pacheco, College lecturer/student
Cecilia can't believe the way English girls go out in skimpy clothes in freezing weather - and she thinks they should look in the mirror first, too.
Interview's notes

Long description of interview: Boston's has a Portuguese-speaking community. Most are migrant workers with little or no English, but this group (or at least two of them) are virtually bilingual. The discussion is lively. Cecilia's six-year-old daughter is a lively presence early in the conversation, but she soon disappears off to bed.

Recorded by: Nigel Hallam, Radio Lincolnshire

Date of interview: 2005/03/05
Interview's notes

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes:

Baby-talk, a feature of all languages, is an attempt by adult speakers to engage an infant in an attempt to provoke a response. We often use very simplified language and use plosive sounds that have a particularly strong acoustic effect, such as boo or bubble, and invent nonsense words with sounds that rely on repetition, such as cutchy-cutchy-coo - a sound that's not that dissimilar to the Portuguese word kikesh that Rui says he used to use. In fact the "b" sound is one of the first sounds babies use regardless of the mother tongue of their parents. At the babbling stage when babies are playing with sound in the early stages of acquiring language, most research suggests that all over the world, the sounds "b, m, p" are acquired very early on. It's no surprise then that numerous languages, like English, have words relating to infancy that feature a babble-like repetition of these sounds, such as baby, mama, papa.

There are several forms of address used in different dialects of English. Man is widely used in the north-east of England and indeed in Jamaican English. Pet is a typical north-eastern term of affection generally directed at women or children and popularised in the title of the television programme, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and duck is used by speakers in a large area of the East Midlands. In many parts of Yorkshire and the north-east Midlands, even in conversations between absolute strangers, an older speaker is liable to address a younger speaker as flower, as once popularised by the comedian Charlie Williams, or even more commonly love, which can seem a little intimate, particularly perhaps to non-native speakers as Cecilia concedes. As Rui explains, these forms of address are actually redundant in terms of meaning, but are merely a natural reflex intended to create a favourable impression or an atmosphere of familiarity among speakers.



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