Listen: Liverpool’s famous Scouse accent

If you’ve ever been to Liverpool, one thing you surely remember about Liverpudlians (no really, that’s what they’re called) is their distinctive accent. If you haven’t been to Liverpool and you think you know what they sound like there, read on.

“Scouse,” as the accent is called, is an expressive, melodic speech comprised of emphatic vowels punctuated with harsh rasps. Think less of the Beatles (their accents were rather posh by the time we got to know them) and more of … well, there are surprisingly few good examples of Liverpool accents in mainstream US TV and movies — odd, because they’re very popular in UK television. “Hollyoaks”, for example is set in a fictional suburb of nearby Chester and is a goldmine for Scouse, both real and feigned. Dancin’ Through the Dark has some proper Scousers, if you can get your hands on it.

The BBC attributes Scouse to Irish and Welsh influences in Liverpool, and calls it a fairly new dialect, noting that it only developed a distinction from the Lancashire accent in the mid 19th century. Today, teenagers speak fairly differently from their grandparents, a sign that the accent is still evolving.

On my recent trip to Liverpool, I happened to meet one particularly choice Scouser — none other that Erica Dillon from Visit Liverpool. She graciously permitted me to tape her accent, so I got her talking about Liverpool, and here it is, folks.

It’s hard to listen to that without reflexively attempting to imitate some of the words. Scouse is fascinating. Thanks, Erica!

This trip was paid for by VisitBritain and VisitLiverpool, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.

The many languages of Suriname

If you’ve been following any of the recent language controversy in Philadelphia, you begin to see that a country’s language is a constantly evolving mix of the cultures, customs and the people who use it. Here at home, this interplay is at often work between our country’s de facto official language, English, and an increasingly populous minority of Spanish-speaking immigrants. Now imagine this same language debate among as many as ten languages, and you begin to get a picture of the small South American nation of Suriname as featured in this article.

Suriname is a former Dutch colony on the northern coast of South America. Due to the country’s colonial heritage, the official language is Dutch. But continuous waves of immigrants have left a unique mark on the country’s language culture. This includes a recent influx Brazilians, who speak mostly Portuguese, a small population of Chinese-speakers from the Far East and Indonesian residents of Suriname who speak Javanese. Add to this mix a local language called Sranan Tongo, a dialect passed down from West Africa by many of the former colony’s African slaves, and local indigenous languages like Arawak and Carib. AND, on top of all this, politicians in Suriname are urging the government to adopt English or Spanish as the new national language, hoping to create closer ties to with neighboring countries. Sound confusing? I’m with you.

It remains to be seen how this complicated language issue will play out in Suriname, but it raises some interesting questions. What factors should determine a country’s official language? The U.S. for instance, will always speak English, but what concessions, if any, should be made as our country becomes increasingly multi-lingual? Should we base our decision on economic circumstances? Political? Cultural? It seems to me it’s some combination of the three. What do you think?

[Via the New York Times]