Fun With Accents

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We had a pleasant walk/hike yesterday. It was about 10 miles. How do you spell….uh, looooooong.

Teide in the clouds. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Teide in the clouds. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. [Photo by me, 2016.]

But the views were often gorgeous.

Which way? Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Which way? Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. [Photo by me, 2016.]
En route, at one point my mind drifted to a minor literary epiphany: a new character idea and an “action event” for the new novel. Oooh, it can be excellent. Now, I just have to write it down.

Village church. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Village church. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Our two co-walkers were good company, too. Although the guide was English, for the first time here in the Canaries we found ourselves on a hike with only non-British. Yesterday, was an Indian (from India) Canadian man (from Ontario) and a Japanese woman.

They are married and live in London. Who you can bump into in the world nowadays, eh? Indeed, we had several laughs over language.

His Canadian accent was obvious and pretty strong. “They’ll be no international incident between us, eh,” he smiled as he got into the car and we shook hands and introduced ourselves.

After the walk concluded, the five of us sat outside a small village restaurant having drinks. As we talked, I brought up an experience I’d had years ago working in a British university in London. A newly-arrived student – he’d been off the plane less than 24 hours – from Pakistan was sitting in front of me in the office. As I spoke to him quickly about certain procedures, regulations, student life, etc., I noticed he was starting to look puzzled and even uptight.

When somehow the issue of my being an American came up between us, he let out a relieved breath and laughed. He was thrilled to discover I was the exception at the school because he was having a very difficult time understanding me. All of his English language teachers back in Pakistan, he explained, had been educated in British English and naturally they didn’t sound like me at all!

That led the Japanese woman to note that most Japanese who learn English in Japan are taught by Americans and Canadians, so that accent is what they usually hear. By now, they have been living in London about ten years. Her British English is excellent now, but she admitted sometimes it baffled her early on.

She shared an experience she’d had shortly after arriving in the country. She had been standing in a post office queue, awaiting her turn to be seen at the next available window. Suddenly, the automated voice called out, “Cashier Number 3, please.”

She said she stood there perplexed briefly. “I didn’t understand a word,” she laughed. “I thought, ‘What is it saying? Why is it speaking French?'”

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are (perhaps trying to understand someone) in the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

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