May 27, 2022

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Do you know “London’s Multicultural English”?

In schools in the cosmopolitan neighborhoods of the British capital, children have developed a new dialect from English. Descriptions of a journalist returning to his home country after thirty years in New York.

Rebecca Mead is an American-British journalist who moved to London in 2018 after three decades in New York. His son, aged 13 and attending a local school, begins to speak a new language or new dialect of English: “London’s multicultural English”. She says it inside An autobiographical story Home / Land: Memories of departure and return [“Patrie : mémoires sur le départ et le retour”, 2022, inédit en français]From which The New Yorker Publish a section.

She explains that she wants to uproot her son, who spent his entire childhood at the Big Apple, expanding his horizons, sharing his experience of the UK and giving him the feeling that he has always been in another. In the process, his son acquires a new language, not just teenage slang, but a “Unprecedented variation of English we notice among younger people”. Known as “London’s Multicultural English”, the event has been studied by linguists for years, observing the birth of children on playgrounds. The phenomenon was explored from 2004 to 2010 in the highly cosmopolitan district of Hockney, the stronghold of the Gogni accent. “Children who speak a language other than English at home or children who speak post-colonial English, such as Ghanaian or Indian English. In this different context, children discover a new common language.

This new English is characterized by new accents, foreign lexical borrowings (e.g. from Jamaica) but syntactic changes. The effect of training is for children to stop talking like their parents and to imitate and talk like their peers. To David Hall, linguist at Queen Mary University of London, “It’s not a cultural allotment, it’s not irrelevant, it’s what people do.

For Rebecca Mead, this experience is as worrying as it is satisfying. Her son learned another language. Admittedly, in the strict sense of the word, it is not a foreign language to him, but it speaks of another place, full of travels, encounters and therefore new possibilities.

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