With the advent of globalisation, the differences between the types of spoken and written English have become more apparent. This has transferred to television where newsreaders in Britain no longer speak with what was known as ‘BBC English’ but rather their own dialects. Although this can make it difficult for some to understand, it adds a richness to the language and culture.
Similarly, books are no longer standardised for a specific market as they seek to cross boundaries. And some authors have taken this further to give their character their authentic voice, in effect breaking all the norms of traditional writing tradition.
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman is one such book. Told from the perspective of a young Ghanaian boy recently arrived in England, he comes to terms with the different meanings behind specific English words and slang. Kelman captures the rich essence of the English language of London and gang culture demonstrating how easy it is for youngsters to be influenced by their peers. This book inspired TSL author Gabriela Harding to write a short story in similar style in her short story anthology Sai-Ko. You can read more about Pigeon English here.
Shaka are dead by John Samson tells of a young South African lad who befriends a school mate who fails to commit suicide (sewerage pipe). Narrated in colloquial style, this is a book which might take a little while to get into for those who are not familiar with the dialect. Here too, the story tells opens a window on how circumstances impact on young lives and their struggle to survive.