English…a strange language

So, my husband is British. And English is my third language.

Speaking three languages might sound really fancy or wonderful but there’s an issue. See, you learn languages by listening to others. You learn not to sound like a foreigner by listening really, really hard and imitating every accent and nuance in speech patterns. Since I’ve done that a couple of times for years in order to learn each new language, it has become a bit of a habit.

The fact is, I imitate everything I hear, from accents to speech impediments and, well, it’s embarrassing. I’ll be honest and admit I’ve gotten more than a couple of strange looks. I don’t mean to ridicule people but that’s exactly what it looks like. My grasp on my Canadian accent is a fluid, slippery one at best. I forget all the time how words are supposed to sound. They come out of my mouth and I can tell that they’re off but not how.

Worse, I imitate other people’s word choices. My lovely husband, being British, uses quite a few that are not…local. Some aren’t embarrassing like when he calls a shopping cart a trolley. For him, an apron is a pinney, a dumpster a skip…you get the idea. Not bad. Just funny.

The problems start when I ‘borrow’ his words. He uses them so much, I forget that they’re not Canadian. So, I’ve told someone to ‘nip down’ and go get someone and I’ve recommended someone ‘take a page from that person’s book’…

Yeah, they didn’t get it either. My accent didn’t help either. I don’t know what I sound after many years in Canada and three languages influencing my palate, but I certainly don’t sound British.

The worst is this one particular word…Apparently, in the UK, its a term of endearment. It means dear or sweetie. Not here. It means something completely different over here. It’s the word cock. British moms everywhere call their sons to them by saying: “Come here, cock”.

That’s not an easy one to explain at work.



6 thoughts on “English…a strange language

  1. My husband is British too. Love his quirky language. Now and then I find myself using his phrasing too. For example, every night we go to bed, I yell, “Mind your head.” and Bam, he hits it on the overhead. 🙂

  2. I’ve got a friend who is Vietnamese, by way of the UK and now lives here in the Deep South. Poor lady. I can see the strain on her face sometimes when she’s trying to decide which language to choose.

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