Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I dare say

I've mention a couple of peculiarities I've added to my vernacular (a word I like and feel is highly underused) over the years.  I think the process really began when I left the States but as I think of it, I'd trace it back to Lawrence, Kansas.  I attended one year of university and left with a y'all that stuck.  It doesn't come out too often. Strangely, improving my Spanish helped reinforce it. There's a verb form that is for "you all who are not me but who I'm talking to" therefor distinct from a They or a We.  Y'all fits precisely.
As my Spanish vocabulary grew in size and complexity, it began to pervert my English. There are words that are similar but sound slightly different - like information and informaci√≥n. Click on the words for pronunciations. They are very close but the stress is distinct. The patterns of speech and word orders are different in Spanish as well.  And let's not forget that there are more verb tenses for past and present in Spanish. It makes my head start to spin thinking about all the intricacies when now I can usually speak it without much thought.
Now as I've come to Indonesia my language is further corrupted. Indonesian, or bahasa indonesia as it's called here, is the opposite of Spanish.  It contains few grammar rules, most revolving about suffixes and prefixes that change a words meaning or use. When the Republic of Indonesia was founded the government realized the need to have a single uniting language, while not abolishing the local languages.  They made it simple enough that anyone could learn it. Instead of having a past tense, anything that happened before now is accompanied by kemarin, or yesterday.  My first few months here involved lots of incidents where I'd say "but it wasn't yesterday, it was a week ago" or something to that affect. If you want to be specific you say when, such as last month, or two weeks ago, but kemarin is the norm.  The same happens with besok or tomorrow for anything in the future.  Part of my personal result of all this has been that when something had occurred or been done the Indonesians say sudah or already.  Nearly all the bule who live here use that as well.  Did you eat lunch? Already.  Are you finished with the paper? Already.  It's awful English but it's very pervasive.

That gives me a nice segue into the fact that teaching English is more likely to screw up your English than anything.  If you hear bad English all day, everyday. You start to subconsciously pick up your students habits and ticks, like the above mentioned already.  You also get accustomed to speaking in short broken bits of English knowing that your students won't follow a more cohesive speech pattern. You go home? Bring book tomorrow ya? It's an effort to change gears when I'm out with friends and speak like the intelligent adult I am.

The last percentage of blame goes to my expat friends.  These are folks from the US, England, Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales mostly.  Many of them have retained an accent and vocabulary close to what it would be at home, some have not.  They've all affected my speech.  I'd never have said . . . well, wait right there.  I"d never have said I'd never have said before.  That's present perfect and much more common in the UK.  That could be my friends or teaching British English for two years.  Brilliant, can't be asked (with accompanying Liverpudlian accent), meant to (in place of supposed to), and reckon (used as "you think") are the most prevalent additions. I'm trying to compile a list of all my "new" words but we'll see how that goes.  I'll also start a list of pronunciations as two weeks ago we realized I say to-MAH-to in the British vein, no longer to-MAY-to as most Americans would. 

Luckily, I'm still the one translating and interpreting for others!


  1. you say well instead of really - well nice

  2. Muhahaha why that is quite excellent news my dear. May British English pervade your speech and so forth!

  3. I've got to add hospital, and lots of past perfect tense to the list. I now say I've been to hospital, not I went to THE hospital.
    And I also say Uni instead of college.