Monthly Archives: June 2012

Beyond the Accent : Why learning a second language is more difficult than it sounds

This was the first article I wrote for PINOYexpats as part of the theme Buwan Ng Wika. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written, but I’m so glad I finally found a copy so I can post it here.

A new immigrant, Lola was gardening when a neighbour greeted her with a jaunty, ‘Good day!’

‘Thank you,’ Lola replied as she fluffed up her hair.

Two weeks after arriving in Sydney, my family was at my school for an interview. ‘How was your flight?’ the principal kindly asked my parents.

‘Oh, we’re living at my sister-in-laws’ house,’ Mum replied.

It turns out that Lola thought the neighbour was admiring the colour of her hair dye, while Mum thought the school principal was asking her about our flat. When these stories are recounted to friends, we discover similar anecdotes around their first contact with colloquial Australian English – or what many people jokingly refer to as ‘Strine.

Language fluency is not just about the ability to remember words or put together grammatically correct sentences. Language is as much a cultural construct as it is a cognitive skill. The ‘English’ we learn back home sounds, feels and evolves differently to the ‘English’ of the Aussies, Kiwis, Poms and Yanks. Continue reading

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