can’t-miss markers of our pinoy accent


[ Note : just another blog on Pinoy accents; thanks and acknowledgment for the awesome video above to Mikey Bustos of YouTube ! Congrats Pao dela Costa Montenegro on your graduation, everyone’s proud of you! it doesn’t take a Nobel  laureate, but there is obviously a direct relationship between the senseless killings in America and the said nation’s (duh) gun control policy.  Absolutely incomprehensible. ]

versatilebloggeraward11I KNOW of at least two Pinoys here in New Zealand who will never lose their Filipino accent, and I can identify only one of them (later below) with consent.  The first, who I think I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, has been in New Zealand for the better part of two decades, isn’t all that pronounced with his Pinoy speech, but talk with him an instant and you know where he’s from.

Certain vowels, intonation, nasalness and our fondness for certain consonants are not unique among languages; it comes from phonetic favorites in our words and phrases and the same goes with other tongues.  Sometimes we sound like Malaysians and Indonesians, not surprising because we share the same root language (Sanskrit), other times we sound like Vietnamese, Thai and even Cambodians, most probably because of the shared Chinese influence on our language/speech.  But ultimately we distinguish ourselves with friends and speakers all over the world because we love to speak English with so-called native English speakers, sometimes pretend to be better than English than they are (and actually convince them a good part of the time), and in the process stamp our personal signature on the King’s English.

Below are some markers that indicate that a Pinoy speaker is within two to three meters from Ground Zero, there are many others, but time and space today are limited to :

the short a’s, short e’s and short o’s.  When we were in primary school, we were taught that sounds for every vowel were distinctly divided into two : short and long.  We took this literally, as in apple was AH-pple, dad would always be dAHd, and fat from a Pinoy sounds regularly like fAHt.  It didn’t matter to us that English speakers all over world say something between the short and long version; and that sip, lip, tin and sin for us are like saying IP, IP, IN, and IN;  and that fog, log, mop, top are OG, OG, OP and OP with the consonants before and after just incidental.  It’s just the way we are, we seem to be in love with the short vowel sound, nothing wrong with that, but to people who aren’t used to it, it can be a bit startling and disconcerting.  Otherwise, especially because we use it ourselves, it becomes endearing (?) .

avoidance of schwa.  This is the converse of the first observation above.  Because media is heavily peppered by US references, it would be a reasonable presumption that a good part of our pronunciation is filled with the schwa sound.  I venture to say that the schwa sound has taken over about a third of all vowel sounds in the American English speech pattern, but when you listen to me and my countrymen speak, it turns out that the schwa is not that popular.  Reason?  As mentioned earlier, we are enamored with our short and long vowel sounds, and we like to stick to them.  It is almost like the way continental Europeans speak English; they have retained the original commands of vowels (think of any German, Italian or Scandinavian speaking English).  I know we’re not Europeans by any means, but unless we are call center specialists or diplomats, we won’t be picking up the schwa sound anytime soon.

Infatuation with the “r” sound.  This sound might initially be identified with Northern speakers like the Ilocanos, Panggalatoks and our kabayan from the mountainous regions, but when you really really think about it, we Filipinos as a group all like our “r” sounds like we like patis in our sinigang, bagoong in our kare-kare and puto with our dinuguan.  We don’t care that the British and other former Commonwealth nations have all but dropped the “r” at the end of words (butter, waiter, winter), or that a lot of American speakers soften the “r” sound, for us the “r” sound, particularly at the end of words is similar to a small motor or lawn mower, the more our “r”s vibrates, the better.

Unaspirated “t”, absent “f”s.  Like the video says above, we aren’t very vocal about our “f”s and “v”s, probably an influence of Spanish colony years (almost three centuries), but have you paused and tried to find out why those “t”s sound so understated when we talk?  We hardly aspirate them, even with short t words like talk, tender and tomato, sometimes causing our listeners to mishear us.  And about “f”s, well I suppose the video says it all.

That’s all I have for today, and as I promised, I can only tell you about the second of two ever-faithful Pinoy accent users, and that is none other than esposa hermosa, who wears it like a terno wherever she goes.  Whether it’s intentional or not it’s probably too early to tell, as she has only been overseas two-plus years, but to many of the people she meets, I guess it’s fair to say that it charms the pants off them (figuratively) 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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10 thoughts on “can’t-miss markers of our pinoy accent

  1. Ay Noel, problema ko itong short and long sound ng vowelss. For the longest time, hindi ko ma-pronounce ang ‘tin’ and related sounds nang tama. Ang isip ko naman, dahil simple lang ang vowel sounds natin – A, E, I, O, U. (O na malambot at U na matigas, ‘di ba? ) Kaya sa tinagal nang panahon, I pronounced “tin” as “teen” – pareho sa long ‘e’ sound. Hindi tuloy ako maintindihan nang mga kausap ko. Heto ang nangyari, dahil walang pag-kaiba sa akin ang tunog ng “beach” (long e) at “bitch”, niyaya ko ang in-law ko “to go to the bitch”. Nagtaka talaga ako kung bakit sila nabigla sa sinabi ko, wla naman akong sinabing masama. :-))

    Ngayon, dahil nagtuturo ako sa mga anak ko ng – irony of ironies! – phonics, natututo na rin ako mag-pronounce ala-Americano. Natututuhan ko nang i -pronounce ang “ir” sound nila na nasa “fir, fur, squirrel”.

    • that’s exactly the kind of problem a Pinoy like you or I might have Imelda, and I applaud you for putting it out here ) over time, I’m sure we’ve made ourselves understood, and made other English speakers aware that there is a special brand of English, that is of course, Pinoy English, thanks again! Beach and fur, indeed! 😉

  2. I wasn’t born in the US. We immigrated 6 1/2 years old, so actually, I’m fluent in Tagalog, although my vocabulary is very limited. It’s very conversational, but we speak English and tagalog at home. Dad has Pinoy accent, but Mom has acquired a bit of the American twang. Mexican accent is distinctive, but so much better than Filipino accent, especially those of older folks’. Filipinos do not pronounce their fs and vs, ” as a matter of Pak ” is such a common phrase in Filipino lingo. Thereb was one instance when a Filipino veteran was interviewed on TV, and he kept on saying as a matter of f*uck….. the reporter and and the news anchor were giggling all the time the Filipino was being interviewed. Filipinos can’t pronounce “ae”.

    Manny Pacqiao’s……….. we kind of cringe. Mom says it’s the Visayan accent. Well, Mom is Visayan, so she knows. lol.

    • at least you have the best of both worlds renx, i didn’t realize the uniqueness of our accent was well-known among Americans, 🙂 I appreciate your taking the time to tell me your personal story. Thanks again for the kind comment!

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