Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Language Creates 'Millin.' Lynn Huggins-Cooper

I have been thinking about language a lot this week. You'd hope so, what with me being a writer. But I have been thinking about it in a different way. I have recently started working as a tutor with a Women’s Trading Collective at The Millin Charity in Newcastle's West End. This amazing project is named using the word ‘millin,’ which means ‘togetherness’ in Urdu, Bangladeshi and Hindi. Many of the women who come along to the sessions have English as a second language, and this can be challenging despite their linguistic skills, as I sadly only speak English and Latin...and schoolgirl levels of French and Italian. Not terribly useful in the circumstances. So, when gaps appear - and they do - universal 'languages' help. Not some weird Esperanto type affair; more body language, smiles and gestures. That got me thinking about other 'language' differences. Lesser differences, but still important when conveying meaning - and that's what language is for. To hold ideas, and carry them to another person.

Accent and dialect are flags and indicators to other members of our 'tribe' - letting them know we are like them. I am from Sussex originally, but have lived in the north east for the last twenty eight years. My accent is different to most people I meet, work alongside - and live with. Sometimes even the words we use are different, so I have had to learn new ones and there is some blending of worlds. I find myself using geordie words with a southern accent - jarring - and some of my 'southern' words have leaked out to be used by the people around me.

Then we get to the thorny issue of using dialect in writing. It can sound clunky and clumsy if the writer is not 'fluent,' and has to be approached with caution. Yet it can add flavour and authenticity when used well. In my work in progress I use both geordie dialect and Romany words, as the story is set within the gypsy community; my mum came from a Romany family. I hope I have used dialect well - but that remains to be seen. My work is now with beta readers, so I will know this space!

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