Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Music to My Ears

Have you ever pondered about the way people speak English, specifically about their accent? On one of Newsradio episodes, an old favorite I might add, Mr. James recognizing an accent that belongs down to a very specific local area, "(some city), South Florida, by the (somename) railroad." On a more macroscopic view, there are the most notable of them all: the Bronx accent, the Boston accent, the Southern accent, the Midwest accent, etc., as opposed to the standard American or British English. From experience, it is also fairly easy to pick up the populace of non-English speaking (or English as a second language) countries from their way of speech. For instance, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Vietnamese, and Korean all have distinct accents, unless he/she sucessfully disguises it by speaking general English. I have an Indian friend who speaks perfect American English when engaged in a conversation with non-Indian. He switches smoothly to an Indian accent otherwise.

What made me think about this thing is the way I unconciously building sort of an opinion on people based on their speech. Take for example today in class. Due to his travel, the professor has delegated both class sessions this week to his colleague, Dr. S --a fellow Latinos judging from the physical appearance and name. As Dr. S started the lecture, I picked up the way he pronounced his words. It was like listening to NPR news, clean, complete and controlled. Also unlike most Latinos, he didn't have that distinct way of pronouncing "L".

Further into the lecture, I was kept mindboggled by his accent or rather multiple accents. He sometimes demonstrated the way the Russian-speaking people speak English ("not at all"). Other times, he spoke as if he had spent enough time in England ("don't"). The usual clues that should give in his Spanish speaking background never really came out ("again"). Also, his choice of words was excellent, ranging from using the informal "stuff" to the big word "reverberate". He ended the class with a question, "any questions, criticism, suggestion, verbal abuse?" I'd say, the good doctor is a linguist.

On with a curiosity towards his background, I went ahead and googled him after class. I expect ed a CV but instead nothing meaningful popped up. It was contributed by his generic name, since it rather synchronices with a Spanish John Doe. Oh well, I could use the literature database to find out about his affiliation or just asked around.


Anonymous said...

i like this one.


Xinda said...

Thank you, dear.