Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Code Switching

After living abroad for almost ten years, my spoken English has gone from bad to atrocious. I used to take pride in my perfectly enunciated English (even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious couldn't trip me up). Now, I stumble over the most mundane words like car park. Do I roll the Rs or do I ignore them, as in cah pahk. Well, whatever, I'll just say parking lot.

I blame the American English. Why do they have to be so different from the British English? Now that I'm back home, I'm trying desperately to code switch back into Singlish (Singaporean English) , which has its roots in the British English, just because we used to be a part of the British colonies back in the days. I'm so self conscious when talking to my local friends for fear of accusations of jiak kantang which literally means "eat potato", a colloquial expression for being too Westernized. The potato, and sometimes the banana, refers to an Asian with a Westerner's mentality - yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Funny, but also not quite amusing.

I have been saying bathroom with an eh sound instead of an ah sound, and then realizing that everyone else here says "toilet". And then I give up. The other day I had a conversation with my ex employer, a very well spoken English lady, who suddenly made me super self conscious as I spoke. I had to, on several occasions, correct myself on using the term "children" instead of "kids", because everybody knows that kids are merely baby goats. Not that she minded, I just thought it was respectful. We are after all, speech and drama teachers.

This code switching exercise is like brain gymnastics, and it's giving me a massive headache. I think I shall work on my equally atrocious Mandarin instead.

No comments:

Post a Comment