Thursday, 30 May 2013

Changing accents

I have recently watched in amusement as my children play pretend games with American accents. I can remember doing exactly the same thing at their age. I suppose the main reason is that a lot of the films and cartoons have American voices, so it seems "cool" to imitate them. I like to think that following the release of "Brave", the Disney/Pixar film, that there are some American children copying the Scottish accent, but I guess that's unlikely.
I am now extremely proud of my Scottish accent, acknowledged as one of the nicest in the world, but that's not to say it always makes life easy for me. For example, voice recognition and the Scots, are not good friends. On an automated phone system, given the option to say my choice, or press a number, I learned long ago to stick to the numbers.
I have more reason than most to have an interest in accents:my husband is Romanian, and almost two years ago, our two nieces from Romania came to live with us...long story, possible book to follow. (One more quick point on the voice recognition issue, something seems very wrong about the fact my Scots accent may as well be some kind of Martian dialect, but my husband's Romanian accent is immediately understood).
A Scots accent is not only a challenge when abroad, even when I travel to England I have great difficulty making myself understood. On one occasion, after repeating myself three times and still not being understood, my Romanian husband stepped in, and his Eastern European accent cleared things up straight away! I worked in customer services in a well known toy shop in London for a while, and I was often bemused when I called a member of staff over the tannoy system, and some random employee not in the least bit connected with the issue I needed assistance with, would appear in front of me. I'm sure there are English people who find it hard to be understood in Scotland too, it's really very strange when we are all part of the UK.
There are times when I can sympathize with people who change their accents deliberately in order to be better understood, or fit in. I was, however, pleased when I heard the Radio One DJ Edith Bowman say she refused to change her Scots accent so radio one listeners could better understand her. After all, why should she?
I had always believed that changing your accent was a personal choice, I found it hard to believe your voice would change depending on the people around you. Now, I don't really have a theory on it, everyone's different. In fact, maybe it's harder to hold onto your own accent than you think, if you are immersed in another country and constantly speaking a foreign language. I know my husband's accent is not nearly as strong as it was, but I've often been surprised by other people's reactions; people ask if he's Irish, Australian and sometimes German. I guess it's hard to pinpoint Romanian with a touch Glaswegian. Also, on recent visits to Romania, people have remarked "you speak very good Romanian sir", much to my husband's amusement. They always look embarrassed when he informs them he is, in fact, Romanian. Clearly, even though I'm not aware of it, his accent has changed a lot.
My husband's accent may not have noticeably changed, at least for me, but the change in my two nieces in two years is amazing. The girls arrived with very little English, and with great support from their school, as well as family, they are now sounding very Scottish as they converse in fluent English. I think for children, it is a very positive thing if they manage to adopt the accent of the country they move to, they are better accepted by their peers, and don't feel like outsiders. It can, at times, be very amusing. I never expected two little Romanian girls to sing me "you cannae shove yer granny aff a bus"! The elder of the two is very fond of the word "wheesht", meaning be quiet... it would be hard to find a more Scottish word.
The UK has many, extremely different accents depending on the area (see the image link below). I'd like to know if other countries find the differences in their internal accents so pronounced. Share your views...would you choose to change your accent if you were to relocate? Do you think it would be a conscious decision or something that just happens?

 Different accents in the UK:!Selected_languages_and_accents_of_the_british_isles2_rjl.jpg

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Rhyme helps children to read.

My books Andrew's Fairy Tale, and The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy are both written in rhyme. I view that as a positive thing, a format children would enjoy. Sadly, the modern world of publishing does not seem to share my viewpoint. For this reason, I decided to self-publish my work. Whilst researching how to approach publishers and agents, the advice and statistics I found, were very off-putting. Books for children, particularly rhyming ones, seem to be a very difficult market to crack. There were very few publishers I  found  that were willing to accept poetry, and literary agents seemed highly unlikely to take on poetry. My own children very much enjoy my stories, and enjoy writing poems at school. I've also found that a homework task to learn a song or poem is always a popular one. I find it strange that this fun way of reading is not readily available to young children, who should be encouraged to enjoy learning to read as much as possible.

I came across some posts on the topic of poetry on I completely agree with what was written by Jennifer Cummins, a freelance writer:

"Reading children’s rhyming poetry aloud to them, from infancy onward, not only stimulates brain development and auditory memory recall and development, but also develops phonemic awareness, the base of linguistic development. Elementary age students also need to be reading, hearing, and writing rhyming poetry, to continue to strengthen the brains’ myelination of nerve connections. The lack of children’s poetry in the educational system, fun-to-read rhyming poetry books by authors represented by good literary agents, flies in the face of logic. These children, with well-developed linguistic skills, will mature into the readers of tomorrow. It is up to agents to acknowledge they need to think proactively, in building a readership for the future. In not representing children’s poetry, agents are shortsighted in their approach to representation, as authors who pen poetry are also capable of authoring other brain-stimulating works."

Ms. Cummins has inspired me to continue writing children's poetry. Children should be able to enjoy rhyme as an effective tool in learning to read.

Related article (with some rhyme success stories):

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Breaking the ice

Writing a blog is a strange experience, like writing a kind of diary for all to see. I have been fretting a little over the lack of comments on my posts...a big fat zero. I'm beginning to feel a little crazy, like I'm having conversations with myself. Just as well I can access the stats on my blog, and can take reassurance that people are actually reading my humble opinions (all be it very quietly). I've read other blogs about this issue, pleased to learn I am not alone in having no one add their views. It can be very hard to strike up conversation, particularly with someone you don't know. I suppose replying to a blog is the technological equivalent. One tip I read is to use a different username and type a comment yourself. That seems like cheating to me, and I've never been great at pretending to be something I'm not. My solution? I'm going to start a conversation, break the ice, with myself.  I may even use my alter ego, disagree with my blogger self....I'm sure I can handle it. Please feel free to join the conversation.

Related articles:

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy

I have four young children at home, three of whom are rapidly losing their baby expensive business for parents! This is what inspired me to write my short story The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy, which is now available on Amazon. I also came up with my own answer to the question we've all been asked...what does the tooth fairy do with the teeth? Read more about my story, and find the link to my book here:

My own tooth fairy experiences:
I am trying hard to keep the kids believing in the tooth fairy as long as possible, but it's not always easy. Creaky stairs to reach a top bunk, and then rummaging under the pillow to find the tooth is not an easy task. A set of wings, or elastigirl type arms would  come in handy in such instances, but sadly I have no such magical aids. I have also given myself extra work, by writing little notes from the tooth fairy thanking the child for their tooth. Sometimes sorry I started that, but I love hearing them excitedly reading their notes to me, so definitely worth the effort. I confess to having once forgotten about my tooth fairy duty, and facing a disappointed child the following morning. I managed to get round it by saying she must have been unable to find the tooth, and giving her a little box to put it in to try again the next night. Of course, the tooth fairy did not forget again. I sometimes wish the tooth fairy could ask for change from a fiver, which would save me the problem of searching through pockets, between couch cushions etc for a pound coin, which are already in short supply due to being required for school lunches, dress down days, tuck shops etc. I have also heard tales of over generous tooth fairies, although, as yet this has not happened in my house. In these cases, both parents leave a coin for their little angel. I can imagine it must be quite difficult to explain that one. Thankfully, here in the UK, the going rate seems to be about £1 per tooth, which means it is always a coin that is left for the child. In other countries where notes can be left, it could become quite complicated.  I recently watched a very funny episode of Modern Family, one of my favourite shows, where Cam mistakenly leaves $100 for his daughter, and then has to figure out a way to persuade her to give it back. Watch the promo clip for the episode here:

I can't be the only one who's faced tooth fairy dilemmas...share yours!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The dilemma

I recently had to make a tough decision: send my youngest to school at four and a half, or leave it another year and send him at five and a half. There were pros and cons to both options, but in the end, I decided to keep him another year at nursery.
I've always felt four and a half was very young to spend a full day at school, especially now when the primary ones are "thrown in at the deep end", from day two (the initial half days are now a thing of the past). My eldest, unfortunately was starting primary school when this new system was introduced, and going from 2.5 hours of nursery to a full day of school was actually quite traumatic for him, (not to mention myself, left holding back the tears in the playground as he was peeled off me and went into school crying his heart out). My youngest is certainly a different child altogether from his elder brother, but my bad experience was definitely preying on my mind as I weighed up my options.
My son is certainly ready for school in terms of learning; he knows his colours, shapes, can count to 20, and is starting to become interested in recognising letters and shapes. A. is also incredibly independent, frustratingly so at times (we are often the last to leave nursery as he insists on putting on his own boots, jacket, gloves etc). However, those skills do not necessarily equate to being mature enough to sit in a classroom all day focusing on lessons. A. can be guilty of major strops if he does not get his own way, or is frustrated when he can't do something...not good attributes for starting school.
My decision to defer my son's school entry really came during the school Christmas holidays. I have my two boys, and a year and a half ago my husband and I became the guardians of our two nieces. A. went from being the youngest of two, to the youngest of four overnight. The holidays made me realise how much of an adjustment that has been for him. A. was becoming increasingly loud and frustrated as the days went on, and near the end of the two weeks, said to me "mummy, I like it when it's just you and me". I became aware of how much he needed some individual time with me, and when the other three are at school, that really is quality time for the two of us, before the homework, dinner, after school clubs, bath, bed routine every afternoon. I decided it wouldn't be fair to send him to school; then he would be competing against older children not only at home, but also at school.
Parents who have children turning four round about now, will undoubtedly have been struggling with this difficult decision. I would be interested to know how many are sending their children, and how many have chosen to defer entry.

Related articles:

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Another rainy weekend...

Many a Glaswegian would agree that the Scottish weather is proving to be extra disappointing this year. Instead of barbeques and visits to the seaside at the weekend, it's yet another visit to a play area with the kids. I've decided to try and focus on the positives to our unsummery summer weather:

  1. Winter wardrobes can easily be adapted to summer weather, lose a layer, and you're good to go.
  2. Children can enjoy jumping in muddy puddles Peppa Pig style, the entire year round.
  3. Rain provides good hydration, essential for healthy skin.
  4. Less wrinkles due to sun damage, and fewer freckles (in my case anyway).
  5. Money saved on unlikely need for sun cream can be used towards heating bills.
  6. Bad hair days have become the norm, making the occasional good hair day extra special.
  7. Occasional glimpse of sunshine combined with rain can result in impressive rainbows.
  8. The few really sunny days we do enjoy in the summer seem almost magical, and nearly every Scot is in a good mood.
Feel free to add to my list, in the meantime, here's a nice picture of a rainbow to brighten your day:

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Do you gender stereotype?

Many a parent will have struggled with this issue, myself being one of them. My son is a wonderful, kind hearted, sensitive boy full of imagination, who likes fairies. I knew it would just be a phase, and he is starting to outgrow his fascination with the magical winged creatures, but at the time I found it hard to deal with. My husband and I tried to discourage him playing with fairies, until one day I stopped and really took time to think about it. I realised, it doesn't matter what toy he plays with, if it makes him happy, that's all that's important.
People have certain expectations of how boys (and girls) should behave, and what toys they should like. I remember briefly studying about this in sociology. The topic stuck in my head; if a child were left to choose the toys they liked, without the influence of adults, they would not necessarily choose the toys associated with their own gender. Children learn what are "boys" toys or "girls" toys, they are influenced from a very early age what is considered appropriate for them to play with.
Gender stereotyping definitely exists, but why is it so much stricter when it comes to boys? My niece, for example, a self professed tomboy, plays football and likes power rangers, nobody bats an eyelid. However, a boy, particularly one who happens to be tall for his age, and likes fairies, that's much more of an issue for people.
I know there are other children out there who like toys not really intended for their sex, and I am now of the opinion that it really doesn't matter. At the risk of sounding like someone much older than I am, children grow up so fast these days, and I for one intend to cling on to every second of my son's childhood...with or without fairies in it.
Find my story, an e-book inspired by my son, on Amazon:

Monday, 6 May 2013


Well, you found me, welcome to my blog. My name is Carolyn Mandache, a children's author living in Scotland with my husband and children. I'll write here about my books, my opinions, my family, and anything else I think will make for interesting reading. Hopefully you'll agree, and visit again!

About me :
The boring (yet relevant) details: Degree in English Lit. (University of Strathclyde), HND in Graphic Design (Glasgow Metropolitan College).

Not so boring: Author of "Andrew's Fairy Tale", available for the Kindle on Amazon. I like to write stories which challenge the norm, and have received 5 star reviews for doing so. The link to my ebook is:

I create my own illustrations and enjoy being able to combine my skills in both writing and drawing. My new story, "The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy" shall soon be available as a printed book...will keep you posted.

I aim to update my blog weekly, please drop by again soon.