You Say Tomato, I Say Ermmmm: How Travel Changed My Language

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EgyptStreetAs I sat there nodding in agreement and saying “Ah, Ah, Ah” with every nod, it suddenly dawned on me. Here, in New York City, this kind of vocal acknowledgment wasn’t normal. To locals it must have seemed like an odd nervous twitch. To me it was just something I had picked up during my previous two years of Egyptian living.

After my first year in Canada, I remember Skyping my mother. My older brother was there and I had not spoken to him since I left. He started rolling around laughing saying “You sound American”. With my Ts turned into Ds and saying things like “for sure”, I was losing my London roots.

New Zealand helped me learn how to shorten every saying; America helped me show over-enthusiastic emotion at the awesomeness of life.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I visited a friend who lives in Chester. A French guy with good but not amazing English was staying at the house for a short while. He had arrived the day before and looked bemused by all the talk going on. I found I was able to converse with him well (in English) and he told me that out of everyone at the party, my accent was the most clear.

After living in various countries and traveling, my accent has certainly softened and UK colloquial phrases are mostly gone. A “neutral” and calmer, clearer voice has emerged from my original drawl- and when I communicate with others who aren’t fluent in English I have quick reflex to simplify and slow my speech. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t pick up the local slang as I go along; it’s not an active attempt to localise but I don’t resist it.  I am not sentimental about my accent.

As travellers, I don’t think we should be precious about our accent. We should be ready to adapt and embrace other languages and sayings, ways and customs. Let your body language change too and be proud to be able to fit in and transform with ease.

Now, Hungary is calling and I know it’s going to be a real challenge. The Hungarian language is completely alien to me and it has very little relation to any other languages. This means I can’t simply bumble along and get by, I have to learn! Also I know very little about the customs, culture and history. Wish me luck!

Szia.

I'm a Digital Nomad. I can't get enough of experiencing new places and keeping my lifestyle minimal to ensure I can easily move to my next abode. Maybe one day i'll settle but right now I can't see that happening!

10 Comments

  1. Jackie

    July 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    It’s definitely changed my language, that’s for sure. I have such a strange mishmash of accents now I just joke about what country or region is coming out when people look at me oddly.

    • Forest Parks

      July 12, 2013 at 8:23 am

      Ha ha! I have had those moments where people look at me odd and I have to say “oh, they don’t say that here?”

  2. Sam

    July 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    I have definitely experienced this too! I’ve taught English as a foreign language for a few years now, so I think my accent has become a lot more neutral, often to help my students understand. I’m certainly flexible with it, but I do really like my accent, and when I’m around people who speak like me, I enjoy noticing how my accent changes back to how it originally was!

    • Forest Parks

      July 12, 2013 at 8:26 am

      Hey Sam, certainly nothing wrong with liking your accent! What I find is odd is that when I do thrust myself back into my London roots my accent comes back but I also pick up a bunch of new things…. When back a few months ago I picked up saying “ain’t I” or “ain’t it” on the end of sentences…. My partner wasn’t happy with that one and she is pleased now it seems to have faded away!

  3. Jo (The Blond)

    July 13, 2013 at 3:25 am

    I’m Polish and have been in the UK for 8 years. My English is not perfect, but really good. When I travel people always say that I sound English mixed with Swedish – I find it amusing.
    Good luck with Hungarian!

    • Forest Parks

      July 14, 2013 at 5:57 am

      Hey Jo, I have met endless Polish people that I have thought to be either British or American on meeting…. It’s amazing how well some people grasp another language and sadly that certainly is not me! Of course I love to try and the challenge is fun.

  4. Shawna

    July 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I love the accents and colloquialisms of other regions and countries! It brings such a flair and uniqueness to speaking.

    • Forest Parks

      July 16, 2013 at 7:39 am

      Me too Shawna, I like joking about how silly some of them are too but I certainly don’t mean it! It makes travel even more interesting.

  5. Morgan

    September 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I love that you advocate adjusting to and appreciating other languages. There’s a reason we find foreign lingo so attractive; it’s fun to join in and feel a part of the community!

    • Forest Parks

      September 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks Morgan :). So many people are far too precious about their own speech… I feel :). You got to go with the flow!

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