Coventry Asian: Perminder describes how he came to work in the pub trade



This recording is an example of an Asian British speaker from Coventry.

Punjabi meets Coventry

Perminder demonstrates perfectly the wonderful hybrid accent of a speaker who is fluent in a language other than his mother tongue, but whose accent betrays traces of interference from his first language – in Perminder’s case, probably Punjabi. We can immediately hear aspects of a Coventry accent in the vowel sounds he uses in words such as started, bar, lagers, down and particularly on the word pub. He also uses a vowel sound that is typical of speakers across the West Midlands for words in the following set: I, Irish, nineteen-seventy-four, wife, all right, mild, my, myself, quite, nineteen-seventy-five, behind and like. However, he also uses a number of pronunciations that we associate with speakers from the Indian subcontinent. Listen, for instance, to the <r> sound he uses on occasions, particularly in the phrases electronic engineering and arranged marriage and in the statements I got married and I was very nervous. He also substitutes a <w> sound for a <v> in statements such as it was very, very difficult and I was very, very nervous.

Local grammar meets Asian grammar

Perminder is, however, clearly a fluent English speaker and uses many British English colloquialisms, such as chap and whack and a number of non-standard grammatical features. He omits the plural marker in the statement when I was about eighteen year old_, uses a non-standard past tense in the statement they give me my first pub and substitutes them for the Standard English determiner, those, in the phrases in them days and one of them things. These are extremely common features of popular speech across the UK, but are often not adopted by speakers who have learned English in a formal situation as they tend only to be exposed to forms that conform to the notion of ‘correct’ English. Perminder does, however, use a number of grammatical constructions that are more characteristic of speakers of South Asian languages. He omits the article in the statements my marriage was _ arranged marriage; I did so _ good job for him and after doing _ few reliefs and the possessive pronoun in the statement I always had my hand out of_ pocket. He also uses a noun rather than an adjective in the statements them days it was very difficulty to get a pub and even for the customers and staff it was very difficulty to take.


Fascinatingly, many speakers who are completely fluent in a second language find that their accents are often influenced by the sound patterns of their first language unless they have been exposed to the second language early enough in their childhood. Pronouncing a sound or series of sounds is incredibly complex it involves deeply automatic processes, requiring minute adjustments of the lips, tongue, jaw, soft palate and vocal cords. This process is acquired up to the age of about twelve and although we continue to adapt our speech as we grow, certain processes become automatic reflexes and it becomes very difficult to change them. Perminder’s early exposure to language will have been to the sounds of Punjabi rather than English, and so those sounds will be extremely natural, while newer sounds are less familiar.

About the speaker

Perminder 'Pele' Singh Baines (1952/05/12 - Nairobi, Kenya; male; publican)



Pramod: It's quite an unusual role to be, uhm, a, a pub manager. Just tell me how you got into, uh, the trade.

Perminder: Oh yeah. When I was about eighteen year old and I was studying for electronic engineering and I've started working behind a bar for extra pocket money. So I w, I worked for this Irish chap who still runs a pub in Coventry, uhm, and, uh, from there on I've got a interest grown in running a pub one day myself. But, uh, Jimmy was always saying to me, you know, “I'm going to get you a pub," but, but them days it was very difficulty to get a pub, especially being Asian. And one of the conditions all the brewery had: you must be married as well. And, uh, then what happened: in nineteen-seventy-four I got married; I went to India; my marriage was arranged marriage and came over and Jim said, “Well, I'm going to get you a pub now; you're married." And I said, “No way! I, I don't think I'll get one, cause they will say, 'your wife's from India' and, you know, 'the Indian ladies don't work behind a pub.'" And, uh, that's what exactly happened after my first interview with, with the brewery and they m, they must have said to Jim, “Well, he's all right; he's worked in a pub many years with you; but his wife's never, doesn't even know what's mild or bitter or lagers," like. Uhm, but Jim said, “Well, take my word for it: give him a pub and he will do well." So we went on training for eight weeks, uh, with the Bass,[1] myself and the wife. Uh, after eight weeks then they put us on different pubs: uh, f, one of them things, where they, they will not give you a pub straightaway; they will let you do the relief works when managers go on holidays. And, uh, I remember the one inc, incident, when, uh, I went, I turned up at this pub to do a relief and this manager must've had a letter saying, “Mister Baines is coming to do your relief while you're on holiday." And, uh, when I turned up and he, he had one look at me, he probably expected an, uh, Englishman and seed Mister Baines and there's a Asian chap turned up, you know, he looked up and down. And but he didn't say anything, you could see his reaction, but I did so good job for him and he, when he went on holiday again and he asked them, the brewery, “I want Mister Baines to do my relief." Uh, after doing few reliefs I actually got a pub; they give me a f, my first pub. Uh, I was quite young: I was about twenty-two and them days you didn't get many young Asian people in pubs or running that sort of a, a business. And even for the customers and the staff it was very difficulty to take: a young Indian lad running their local pub. Uh, but I'm, I came through all right, uh, and I, I got, it's only once I've got, ever got hit in, you know, in the twenty-three years I've been running the pub. And that, that was my first, in nineteen-seventy-five, my first pub and, uhm, l, I was barring this chap who was causing problem; unluckily he caught me, you know - whack! - and with that, you, you, I mean, I, I didn't think he'll do it. From that day and I really took extra precaution: I stood back when I talked to people and all that and I always had my hands out of pocket to be ready. And, you know, I was quite young that day and I could handle myself and, but then, but, uh, that's how I started.

Pramod: Just tell me about your first day of running, uhm, your own pub with your wife, what it w, what it was like; how you were feeling and how it all went. Can you remember it?

Perminder: Yeah, I can remember it, I mean, I was, I was very nervous. You know, I was, I was nervous and, and, uh, specially my wife, I mean, she didn't, sort of, come in the front and serve; she's always, did the work behind the scene, like, you know: did all my bookwork and, uhm, she worked, hel, helped in the kitchen, but, uh, it was very, very difficult, uhm, and I was very, very nervous. But after a week and I, I've, uhm, had a quite a, uh, I've quite enjoyed it.


[1] Bass refers to a famous English brewery founded by William Bass in 1777 in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire.

Coventry Asian: Perminder describes how he came to work in the pub trade
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