I didn’t think much about it the first couple of times but today, it happened again!
A couple of Latin American friends and T (from Taiwan) said I had a British accent.
Huh? That’s like the most bizarre thing I’ve heard about me! (I don’t consider it bizarre when people think I’m only 23 or 24 years old :p)
On the other extreme, this guy from HK/Canada who knew Sito exclaimed how I had a thick Singaporean accent while Sito had not.
I guess for those who are acquainted with Singlish, it’s pretty obvious what kind of accent I have. There was one occasion when I was suddenly awakened to my own accent. That was the spring of 2003, when BBC news was covering SARS in Asia. I had my back to the TV and turned around with a jerk when I heard a primary school teacher address her class to “take out your thermometer” in that familiar Singaporean monotone – to suddenly hear that amid the crisp accent of the BBC reporter was very startling! I suddenly realised that the way we spoke English can sound quite terrible to others and even ourselves if we have been immersed in a different accent for a while *.* Somehow I just wasn’t aware of it when I was hanging out with the Singaporeans..
So today, I don’t know it got started but suddenly, they were telling me about the way I say certain words, like “can’t” which I don’t say in the American way – I could hardly figure out whether they’re saying “can” or “can’t”! Ok if you count that as an accent, but “four years”, how I pronounce that in a different way, I just don’t get it!
Anyway, just yesterday, actually, day before on Saturday, while we were chatting with a friend who just arrived from Sg for a week in Chicago, and saying how angmohs might not understand our English, I commented that it was because Singaporeans do not articulate our words properly, especially the terminal consonants. Singaporeans, just try saying “forget”, “and” – don’t we love swallowing that final “t” or “d”?? We’re used to it ourselves so we have no problem understanding fellow Singaporeans but it can be difficult for others to understand us.
I only started to be more conscious about my consonants and vowels when I was doing the language module in my Montessori course, and now when I’m learning Spanish. In fact, every time I learn a new language, I glean new insights into English. Like when I was learning Japanese in secondary school, I began to have a better appreciation of English grammar, strangely..
Anyway, no, there’s no way I have a British accent despite four years in Oxford. Even when I drop the whole la-leh-lor thing, it’s indisputably Singaporean, since, well, I’m born and bred in good old Sg! This came up too on Saturday, they were saying that – well, I don’t know if this could be some urban legend but it’s worth a thought – MM was once posed a question by someone in a forum, and before he replied, he asked him whether he was Singaporean (yes) and then why he was speaking with an American accent! Well, either he was born and bred overseas or just fake! There’re so many of these angmoh-wannabes in Sg – two weeks on a holiday and among their tons of souvenirs was a brand new accent. Bah. I cannot take it! Or, buay tahan :p