In a manner of speaking
man said n
a talk wia
iz coz yi
mi ti talk
lik wanna yoo
it wuz troo.
jist wonna yoo
way ti spell
ana right way
ti tok it. this
is me tokn yir
right way a
is ma trooth.
yooz doant no
yi canny talk
right. this is
the six a clock
nyooz. belt up.
Tom Leonard's poem, from Unrelated Incidents, raises interesting ideas about accent and class, about power and public acceptance of the broadcast work. It is included in the NEAB GCSE Anthology 20002001 and is aimed at students in Year 10 and above.
Here are a few ideas on ways of approaching the poem with students.
Introduction: Sketch an outline of the British Isles on the board, or pin up a large map. List all the regional accents that the class can identify.
* Are there differing accents amog the students in the class?
* If so, has it caused division?
* Does how we speak define the sort of person we are?
* Do we make judgments about people from the way we speak?
* Has anyone in the class experience of this?
Studying the Poem: Read it in a variety of ways. Silently. Aloud. In pairs. Around the class. To your neighbour. Can we agree on the specific accent in this poem? Where might the speaker's native region be?
* Take a section of the poem and rewrite it in "correct" BBC language (yiwidny wahntmi ti talkaboot thitrooth wiavoice likwanna yooscruff... "You would not want me...") Now do this with the whole poem.
* Debate: "Most people don't want to hear a strongly regional accent reading the news." Do you agree?
* What is the poet's central point about accent and truth? (thisis ma troothyooz doant nothi troothyirsellz cawzyi canny talkright.) * Suggest reasons for the slimline format on the page.
Follow-up activity Imagine someone writing a letter to the BBC complaining about the news being read in a regional accent. How might it be written? How might the BBC reply?
Rowland Molony teaches at Sidmouth College, Devon