Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Everybody Has An Accent

My friend Garch is impossibly adorable, so every time he would nag me about how I pronounced certain English words, I would humor him. I say "chocolate" as regular Filipinos would, "cho-ko-leyt," but I think he found this insufferably pedestrian. He insisted that I say it brisk. So "choc-lit." Same with "Jesus." I say it "jee-soos," with the lips rounded off at the end; but Garch always corrected me. "It's 'jee-saz.'" He would make me say it with the lips stretched out. As I said, he's adorable otherwise, so I'd say the words like he wanted to hear them whenever he was around.

If you grew up in the Philippines, you'd be conscious of a certain snobbery--let's admit it now--a feeling of superiority amongst people who said those English words perfectly correct. There is a wrong way and a right way to pronunciation: Very wrong would be how the Visayan nanny stereotypically spoke, pronouncing pink as "penk" and tricycle as "tray-si-kol." So right would be, for example, the articulation of former ABS-CBN TV show host Cher Calvin, who grew up in the States. We try oh-so-hard to do it how it's supposed to be done, that is to say, with an American twang.

I land here and in the very beginning speak French like I'd hear in their movies, with the curt, Parisian accent. My husband and his family would have none of it; they always corrected me. It didn't take long for me to be using the deliciously robust word endings of the South. Last December, I go to language school in the nearby city of Montpellier. One of the teachers think I'm almost a real bilingual (she only knew I spoke English aside from French, as there was never any occasion to communicate with her in Filipino), another tells me to tone the accent down, try to sound like they do in Paris.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, when I introduce my southern-French husband to a couple of Swiss friends. "The Swiss really speaks French funny," Pierre said after they had left. Later on he meets my Belgian climbing buddy, who speaks French, Flemish, and English. "You're not French, right?" Pierre asked her. "You have an accent." The Belgian replied, "No, I'm not, but it's only now that I'm here in France that I find out I speak the language with an accent." Spunky girl that she is, she adds, "Hey, you're French, but you also have an accent."

The brouhaha is not limited to the Philippines, France, Switzerland, and Belgium, I tell you. In the climbing club there are three Spaniards and one Ecuadorian who always hang out together. "So it's the same kind of Spanish in both your countries?" I ask Marcos, the scientist from Ecuador. "Pretty much," he replies, "just certain words are not the same, and also the pronunciation." A pause and he adds, "The Spaniards, you know, they don't speak Spanish correctly. They don't have the right accent!"

So Garch, I know you speak Spanish and you do it like your insulares ancestors did, but I'm not going to go all Ecuadorian on you. After that long blog post all I really want to know is this: Can I just keep on saying "cho-ko-leyt"?


Leah said...

My hubby always laugh and correct me too when I say "circumstances" and "oven". I probably say, the first word too fast or my pronunciation is not correct on the right syllable.

And yes, everyone has an accent. So go ahead, Say chalk-late the way you want to.

Ever notice how your accent and the tone of your voice changes when you to talk to a fellow Pinoy? My hubs told me mine does.

haze said...

Garch reminds me of my speech prof Mr. Gabriel in FEU ! When we say (little) leetel, he would say let'l ! Art is not only for painting, should have art while speaking or delivering your speech too! I am happy I've got high grades during my speech classes with him, maarte rin kaya ako!

Hahahah choc-lit or chokoleyt whatever pareho lang yon basta may choc sa unahan at makakain! Oooopppsss this sounds corny :( !

Makis said...

When asked what english I speak, meaning American or British, I would always answer "Filipino-english" although it is definitely not British, closer to American but truly a Pinoy accent. Like you could tell Thai-english from Chinese-english as well as French-english & German-english, well you get what I mean. So for me choc-lit & cho-ko-layt is the same banana :)

tommpouce said...

then try that: be born french, move to holland, watch american movies on tv, learn english from teachers who come from Oxbridge (whiever, same difference), then London (wherever in there, same difference) and then scotland.
Go to england and hear more than a few people say you speak with a south-african accent.
Whatever the accent, it's unbeeleevebel'.

Oh and you from the midi speak with a weird accent, you bet!!

decorator said...

When i was in college, ogie would always correct in 'hurricane' pronounced as harikeyn as to my yurrikeyn... or the 'bury' which is often burri and not the correct beri...

then i went to bangkok.. a friend wanted to go to Rama 1 Road and not a single taxi driver understood it until he said "Lama wan?" He got the cab which brought him to Babylon.

Anonymous said...

Hey Eypol,

I've been teased myself about my French with Southern accent. Et alors? I'd shot back sometimes.

At ano naman kung tsokoleyt?

Gusto mo ng keynding may keytsap?


apol said...

Yeah, LEAH, when I cam back from a weekend with two Pinay friends, my husband swore my Rs got all hard and rolling.

HAZE, I had a grade-school teacher who insisted statue was pronounced stey-choo :)

MAKIS, I always just say American English to make it simple.

Hey, TOMMP, I was just reading a paper on Third Culture Children. Ever heard of the label? Seems like you're one of them.


PATRICIA, you speak with a Southern accent too??? Kaya pala I feel such affinity with you :) (You are Patricia Corre, right?)

Anonymous said...

Statue- I pronounce it as-" Stey choo"
Is it correct to say " Stey choo"???