[ Note from NOel : Rants and raves below are limited to personal NZ experience, so we sneakily absolve ourselves from liability on hearsay and 2nd hand info, pls be advised … concern and sympathy to all those affected by the bomb throwing right after the last Bar exam at DLSU Sunday back home. ]
Dear batchmates, kabayan, officemates and friends :
ON THE SURFACE, there’s not much that connects Lea Salonga‘s star turn in Miss Saigon, Manny Pacquiao‘s Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You on the American Jimmy Kimmel talk show, and lately, the goose-pimply rendition of Listen by Charice Pempengco on Glee and other YouTube virals.
Not much, except their canny and strategic use of English, to varying degrees of gigil, whenever displaying and/or talking about their considerable (artistic and athletic) talent to the rest of the world.
Each has done it in his/her own way. Where Lea and Charice have wowed audiences with the perfect pronunciation and accent, matching anything their predecessors and peers have done, Manny has used a Pinoy accent that is unique and something only he can pull off. His accent is his own, and the media loves every minute hearing it.
The fact is, Pinoys are able to show off their talents on a worldwide stage, using English with charm and class.
But on balance, and basing on our own experience picked up in White Man’s Land, we daresay : don’t lose the Pinoy accent.
Meaning, for all the migrant wannabes, Pinoy expats and student visa holders out there, our accent is every bit as palatable as the American, British or Australian versions.
It’s a simplistic comparison, but just listen to Charice P or the Pacman,or even the various beauty queens who reached the money stage in their respective competitions: What is the common theme in their speech?
Well, besides the fact that they exude confidence and humility at the same time, display an endearingly naive, aw-shucks and unassuming attitude, very few try to use or affect an American twang or BBC brogue.
[No knock on Lea’s acquired accent, but if the British accent was what she felt comfortable using, kudos to her and her talent to do as the Romans do. ]
It’s hard to describe, but our accent is a combination of literal pronounciation, Filipinisms, and a particular way of placing accents on syllables, phrases and sentences that can be alternately described as charming and maddening, disorienting and enlightening.
Anglophiles all over the world, in their respective forms of English, like to glide over words and phrases as part of everyday usage, and listeners who hear the first parts of such figures of speech perceive the rest without waiting to hear the same.
What’s up with you is shortened to Wazzup, and finally to zup, in some places, and this is accepted as normal speech. Filipinos like me are still comfortable with Hello, how are you, and though reminiscent of the previous century, still remains pleasing to the ear of our workmates. Or at least, that’s what they tell us.
Another example is common expressions of a local populace like Cheers, ta, g’day, no worries which on the whole are used awkwardly by newcomers like us, and this awkwardness is immediately picked up by the locals.
Our end : Let’s face it, initially we feel stupid and at worst, “trying hard” by mirroring their favorite and well-loved phrases. We also never get used to the feeling that we’re using such phrases in the wrong way or situation. The only consolation is with time and practice, the effect becomes less hilarious and more normal sounding, paving the way for us sounding like ordinary Kiwi blokes.
Their end : Take your pick, depending on their media orientation ( TV, movies or sports ) we either sound like Manny P, Jacky Chan or some Asian contestant on a copycat talent show, but at the same time they get the idea that we’re trying to be like them, or at least being agreeable and getting along with them. The net result is hopefully half the time we understand each other, and we don’t need to (1) rely on sign language, (2) create a new meaning altogether, or (3) lead us to acceptance by our hosts although this last outcome is the unlikeliest.
Specifically, phrases like pickupapiefo’ya?, watchsomefootyondatelly are just two examples of some tricky phrases that might be worthwhile to learn, and there are plenty more, believe you me.
Our end : Jibberish and gobbledygook, at the outset, because although we know what we are saying, we don’t know if they pick it up; in fact we don’t even know if fellow Pinoys get what we are saying, and worse, will even misinterpret us and tell our foreign masters we are suffering from a rare form of tropical disease.
Their end : Seriously, our workmates will hear snatches and portions of ideas that seem to make sense and for the meantime try to make sense of what they think is intelligent speech. They might even realize that their oral contractions and abbreviations have been confusing us for some time now (Macca’s for McDonalds, rejo for registration, or telly for television, among many others), and in a benevolent form of reverse psychology, convince us that No, mate, if ya hear us talkin that way, it’s not proper English, forget it, OK?
VOWELS & CONSONANTS, PLOSIVES & SIBILANTS. On the whole, Pinoys are a textual, literal bunch. We read out through our mouths (and nostrils) what the latter are told by the eyes, with the brain intervening only incidentally. Based on what we are told from early childhood, vowels are either short or long, consonants are either in-your-face or invisible, and combinations of sounds are only there for spelling purposes, or some long-forgotten rule. On the other hand, almost every American vowel sound is a schwa, each consonant has at least two or three variants, and plosives and sibilants have an infinite variety.
We like to make fun of Manny P (and for the previous generation), Elizabeth Ramsey and Yoyoy Villame when they consciously or otherwise exaggerate their Visayan accent, but in truth we don’t sound much different to our foreign listeners. Reason : we don’t make such a great distinction betwen our short and long a’s, e’s and i’s.
The irony is Kiwis do the same with their own vowels (pin/pen, lift/left, dintist/dentist), often confusing their Aussie counterparts as well. So it’s not like they can’t relate to our linguistic quirks and phenomena.
** ** ** ** **
It’s surprisingly overlooked, but we are probably the 2nd most Westernized nation (after Japan) in the Far East, and this is borne out by our affinity with and ease with English. Whether or not we speak it with a quaint accent is largely superficial, as long as it gets the job done.
However, the way we adjust to our foreign hosts, our adaptability and our social skills are what’s equally crucial to our lives overseas. Endearing ourselves to our newfound friends via a combination of our accent and all others will go a long way towards becoming citizens of the world.
Thanks for reading !
- Improving Lessons in Oral Communication (socyberty.com)
- what affects the variables in a language’s regional accents? (ask.metafilter.com)
- How to talk like a vampire, and anyone else (cnn.com)
- Language Construction Kit (zompist.com)
- Forming Comparative and Superlative Adjectives: Morphological, Spelling, and Pronunciation Changes (brighthub.com)
- Womana s migraine ties tongue in a French twist (bostonherald.com)
- Woman’s migraine ties tongue in a French twist – Boston Herald (bostonherald.com)
- British Woman Speaks With French Accent After Migraine (aolhealth.com)
- ‘All About Adam’: fun, naughty, sexy (showbizandstyle.inquirer.net)
- Did Americans in 1776 have British accents? (nicholasjohnpatrick.com)