Friday, 30 September 2011

Picters In Yer Heid

A mind a puckle year syne takin pairt in a Radio Scotland braidcast aboot the Scots language. Yin o the ithers takin pairt threapit mair or less that oo war aw wastin oor times ettlin tae speak Scots cause maist o us aw thocht juist in English onywey. A taen him up on that pynt for A thocht at the time that A wis thinkin in Scots. A haed been speakin in Scots an A kent fine that A didnae think up a sentence in English first then owerset it intae Scots. It juist disnae work that wey.
The diffrence atween Scots an English isnae juist the diffrent soond o the words that's yaised. Ther diffrences in the gremmar, sentence structure an idiom an aw. A guid exemplar micht be the "Singularity o certain Scots plural verbs". English aye yaises plural verbs wi plural nouns an plural pronouns. Scots aye yaises singular verbs wi baith singular an plural nouns an juist chynges ower tae a plural verb whan it's cleekit tae a plural pronoun. Sae, ye can get the likes o, "The dugs is rinnin doon the street" or "They are rinnin doon the street".
Onywey, noo-a-days A'm no shair if oo think in languages at aw. A mind a while back ma youngest dauchter haed been bidin in Germany for a while an haed gotten engaged tae a German polisman. The neist time ma wife an masel wis ower for a veisit, oo got introduced tae oor dauchter's future Guid-Faither an Guid-Mither an efter a blether in thair hoose, they taen us a lang daunder alangside a canal an oot intae the kintrae side. This turnt oot tae be nae sma daunder but lestit for aboot three oors. Ma wife wis walkin alangside the mither an masel alangside the faither.
A haed aye taen an intrest in the German language syne the days o the War whan A yaised tae get a job on the scuil holidays warkin on the local ferm alangside some German POWs. A mind yin day A wis warkin wi yin cried Heinz an oo war baith liftin boxes o lettuce aff the conveyor belt efter they hid cam oot o the washer machine. Oo hid tae coont aw the boxes as oo steckit thaim up in a corner an it wisnae that lang afore oo war baith coontin thaim in German. Thon wis whit stertit me aff lairnin masel the leid.
The POWs wisnae allooed aff the ferm an yin day juist afore denner time, Heinz haundit me a twa-bob bit an speirt if A wad get him ten Woodbine whan A gaed hame for ma denner. A telt ma mither as A wis haein ma denner an she got anither twa-bob bit oot her purse an said, "Puir Sowel. Get him twinty."
Whan A gied the twinty Woodbines tae Heinz he luikit fair bumbazed an said that he haed only gied me twa bob.
"Von meine Mutter." wis yin o ma first real yuisses o the leid an A wis fair awa wi masel.
Onywey, wi ma dauchter's waddin comin up, A thocht A'd be best tae tak an O Level coorse in German at the nicht scuil. Sae, as A wis walkin wi ma dauchter's Guid Faither tae be, it turnt oot that he cuidnae speak a word o English sae oo juist spake for three hale oors in German. The thing is it cuid only hiv been in German wi him no speakin ony English an, tho A can mind maist o the things oo haed been bletherin aboot, A cannae mind whit language maist o the words wis spoken in. Ye see, whan ye think back on a crack that ye've haed, ye dinnae see the words spelt oot in the language that wis yaised, nor dae ye hear the words spoken in yer lugs. Aw that ye mind is the picters that thae words haes pitten intae yer heid. Picters that can be owerset intae ony leid that ye're acquent wi.
Sae A doot A maun hiv been hauf richt durin thon Radio Scotland braidcast. A hidnae been thinkin in English richt eneuch nor haed A been thinkin in ony leid. A haed been thinkin in picter like thochts that kythed in ma heid an A haed owerset thae picters direck intae Scots words. Aiblins, wi a monoglot English speakin body that disnae speak ony ither leid, A cuid unnerstaun thaim thinkin they war thinkin in English cause aw the picter thochts in thair heids wis aye bein owerset intae English an nivver intae ony ither leid. Howanever, wi bi-lingual or multilingual fowk, thae picters can be owerset intae ony nummer o leids. Sae the quaisten noo is, whan oo think aboot onythin, are thae thochts comin intae oor heids as words o yin, twa or ony nummer o leids or are oor thochts juist comin intae oor heids as picters for us tae owerset intae whitever leid oo're yaisin at the time? 
Bob Fairnie.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Thochts o Speakin Scots

Is it ony wunner at aw that mature professional Scots disnae feel aw that canty tryin tae speak Scots in formal or e'en in informal forgaitherins o thair peers? Efter bein telt for years at the scuil tae stop yaisin thon common street slang an lairn tae speak proper, they war fleetched tae redd thae common words an habits oot thair speech. As they gaed thair wey throu eddication on the gate tae professionalism, they got better an better at no yaisin thae words that thair forbeirs kent as freends. "Pittin thair fit in it" wis somethin that kythed less an less as time gaed by. The mair they lairned tae think in English, the easier it wis tae keep thae scunnersome Scottiscisms oot the wey. Some, nae doot, creenged an leukit doon thair nebs at the orra misfortunate sowel they whiles heard yaisin thae auld maukit words fae the sheuch an shawin tae the yird the puir cheil's want o a guid eddication. Aiblins fowk the likes o thon wisnae clivver eneuch tae lairn hou tae speak proper onywey.

Haed the Scottish estaiblishment no been sae nairrae-nebbit in the bygane, an seen insteid the guid o bilingualism or e'en multilingualism, Scotland micht hiv been a sicht better place the day. Wi nae "inarticulate Scot" an nae tung-tackit bairns wi inferiority complexes in the scuils, juist think whit a croose an wycelike society oo cuid hiv haed. Ay, oo've aye been able tae haud oor ain wi the bettermaist at tred an in the mercat but think hou muckle better oo micht hiv been. Ye cannae be ower guid whan it comes tae biggin up the prosperity o a nation an naethin beirs the gree better nor a side that is croose an canty wi itsel. But the Scots language wis sic an ugsome thing tae thae cheils that haed the best interests o North Britain at hert. It haed tae be redd oot tae the hinnermaist vowel. Tae thaim there wis juist room in fowks' heids for juist the yin language an that language wis tae be English. Wi thaim, lairnin tae speak it meant unlairnin tae speak Scots an Gaelic tae. Ethnic linguistic cleansin fae aroond 1850 on!

Howanever, life lowps alang the gate o time an fowk, alang wi thair consaits, gets aulder an whiles oot o fashion. Leirit fowk noo pynts oot the psychological skaith that's been duin tae the bairns an hauflins bi doonhaudin an makin a bauchle o the language that thae young fowk brings wi thaim fae the hame an the community. On the ootside, awbody grees wi the siccar pedigree an wirth o the Scots language an maks oot they're scunnert that onybody cuid think o't as slang but, for aw this ootby swall o uphaud for the mither tung, pairts o the estaiblishment hisnae chynged muckle deep doon inside.

Tae mature professional Scots, that maks up the feck o Scots language upsteerers the day, the skaith haes been duin areddies an tho thair herts an thair heids kens noo that aw thae lees they war telt, wisnae true, it's a different maitter wi thair mooths. Thair mooths, it wad seem, haes a mind o thair ain an is gey sweir tae gie up thair hard won English. Forbye, the'r aye the sheddae o thon puir cheil's want o a guid eddication lirkin at the back o thair heids an awbody's sweir tae be the first tae tak the lowp. If they cuid juist gaun intae a chemist shop an coff some conter-creenge patches tae steek on thair airms, things widnae be sae fykie. A've heard tell that whan Catalonia got its ain devolution an the TV braidcasters stertit readin oot the news in Catalan, the fowk wis smitten wi the creenge an thocht it wis common an ugsome. They didnae hae airm patches thare aither but the creenge juist gaed awa aw bi itsel efter aboot sax weeks an noo they widnae hae it ony ither wey.

Yince thae professionals kens athin thirsels the'r nocht in speakin Scots as shuid gie thaim a rid face, it's juist a maitter o thaim gittin tae be croose in the speakin o't. They juist hiv tae git yaised tae it. Tae dae thon, they wad be weel wyced tae pit thair minds back tae thair bairnheids an mind whit fasht thaim then whan they war first lairnin tae speak English. Whit wis it that gart thaim pit thair fit in it sae aften then in compare wi the noo? As bairns they stertit tryin tae speak English at a time in thair lives whan maist o thaim war still thinkin in Scots. Noo they're no croose an canty wi speakin Scots cause, in maist cases, they're still thinkin in English. Oo're speakin here aboot fowk that soonds guid Scots speakers tae ither fowk but dinnae think thirsels they're aw that guid. This is cause the'r aye a breck in the rin o thochts gaun throu thair heids wi the words aye hivin tae be owerset aw the time fae English intae Scots. The wey o gettin ower this is tae lairn tae think in Scots or raither tae lairn tae be able tae think in aither Scots or English at will.

Lairnin tae think in Scots soonds easier said nor duin but it's dumfoonerin tae fund oot whit a skoosh it can be. Practisin thinkin in Scots is a thing that awbody can dae gey near ony whare an ony time. Ye cuid be hurlin alang in yer motor wi hunners o thochts gaun throu  yer heid. Juist git intae the habit o owersettin aw thae English thochts intae Scots yins. The same thing can be duin juist as easy whan ye're gaun ower the carpets wi the stoor-sooker, cuikin the denner, hingin oot the claes, daein the airnin, cuttin the gress, diggin the gairden an hunners o ither seetiations whan thochts is gaun throu yer heid. They dinnae aye hiv tae be in English. The sairest thing that haes tae be owercome is gettin yaised tae lattin ither fowk hear ye speakin Scots an pittin oot yer heid, thochts o whit thae ithers thinks aboot yer want o eddication. Ye ken yersel the'r nae want. The mair fowk in the company that jines in, the easier it's gaun tae be for awbody. Sax weeks it taen the Catalonians. Lat's see hou lang oor mature professional Scots can dae it in.

Bob Fairnie

Monday, 30 May 2011

Emma Chizzit?

In ma younger days, A warkit in the shipyairds, baith in ship design an in management. Howanever, ther cam a day at the back end o the 1960s whan it leukit like ma shipyaird wis on its wey oot an micht be gaun tae shut doon. The ootcome o this wis me an ma faimly sailin oot tae Sydney, NSW, tae tak up a new job as Senior Drafting Officer wi the Australian Shipbuildin Board. Oo wurnae lang in settlin doon an endit up bidin in Campbelltown, an oor an a hauf fae Sydney bi electric train.

Ma youngest dauchter wis juist five year auld whan oo first got thare an gaed strecht intae the primary scuil whaur she suin got tae be guid pals wi twa sisters. The youngest yin o thaim wis in her cless. In nae time at aw she wis speakin braid Strine, whit ye micht cry Australian Standart English. A didnae hae ony bother unnerstaundin Strine masel an cuid aye mak masel unnerstuid excep whan oo war in the shops on a Seturday an A hid tae spell ma name oot. The assistants aye got the spellin wrang an A aye hid tae get ma dauchter tae spell it oot tae thaim.

Aboot a year efter oo arrived in Campbelltown, ma wife an masel wis doon the street yae Seturday mornin an oo bumped intae the mither an faither o ma dauchter's twa pals. Oo war haein a guid blether an the lassies' mither telt us aboot the time they cam hame aw excitit aboot a new lassie in the cless an she cam fae Scotland. They hid telt thaim that she cuid speak guid English but her Mum an Dad cuidnae.

No lang efter oo hid sattelt in Campbelltown, A hid been speirt tae tak up a pairt time job lecturin tae sea gaun marine engineers aboot Ship Construction at Sydney Technical College. This wis for ilka Wednesday nicht fae 6pm tae 9pm. The only kinch wi this wis that the electric trains tae Campbelltown stopped rinnin at 7pm sae it meant A wad hiv tae get yin o the diesel "country" trains leavin fae the Central Station at 9.15pm. It wis a guid job the Central wisnae aw that faur fae Sydney Tech but it wis still a bit o a rush, parteeclar on the first nicht. Whan A got thare, A seen aboot five pletforms sae A gaed strecht tae the first yin an speirt the ticket lassie whit wis the pletform for the Campbelltown train.

The ticket lassie wis in her twenties an bonnie wi it an, efter A speirt her, she gied me a smile as braid as Sydney herbour an said, "Noo hou wid A ken a thing like that Jock?" Efter she seen ma mooth drap, she eikit, "If A wis you A'd try number fower." A juist smiled back an said, "Thanks hen!" Sae, thare wis me. A'd juist gien a lectur on "Ship Construction For Marine Engineers" in whit A thocht wis ma best Strine an yon Scottish lassie hid fund me oot nae bother at aw.

It wisnae lang efter thon that yae denner time A wis haein a keek throu yin o the Sydney buik shops an cam ower a buik cried "Let's Talk Strine!"  

"That yin wad dae juist the dab." A thocht.

A got torn intae thon buik tae see if it wad mak me soond mair Strine in ma lecturs. Whuther it did or no, A nivver fund oot but A ken that A nivver hid ony o ma students girnin aboot no bein able tae unnerstaund me. Onywey, A fund thon buik gey interestin an A mind yin bit whaur the author wis tellin the story aboot an English author that wis ower in Sydney tae sign copies o his new buik. He wis sat at a desk in the shop an thare wis a lang queue o customers waitin tae hae thair buiks signed.

This wee auld wifie got tae the tap o the queue an pit her buik doon on the desk. Athoot leukin up, the author speirt, "Name please?"

"Emma chizzit?" the auld wifie reponed.

Sae, the author stertit tae screive, "To my good friend, Emma Chizzit."

"Naow! naow!" said the wifie, "Emma chizz e beuk?"

"Jings!" A thocht, "Even A kent that yin!"

Oo hid sailed oot tae Australia fae wast tae east an, efter three year, oo decidit tae sail fae wast tae east an see the ither hauf o the yird on oor wey hame tae Scotland. Whan oo arrived back at the Waverley station, ma brither an some o the faimly hid arrived wi the fishin boat's mini-bus tae tak us an oor luggage hame.

Ma youngest dauchter wis aicht year auld bi noo an wis hingin on tae ma haund as oo war aw sclimmin up the Waverley steps haein a guid auld crack. She stertit pouin at ma haund an speirt in braid Ausie Strine, "Dad! Dad! What does 'Ah dinnae ken' mean?"