English Without Foreign Accent?!

– This letter was first published in my old blog back in 2007.

credit: online-english.org

Dear Z,

I was intrigued by your comment on my last posting about the various ‘modifications’ of English. First of all, yes, they are easily noticeable throughout the world and although it may be seen as racial, people sometimes recognize others’ ethnic group merely by the sound of their accent. It is a common linguistic phenomenon in which non-native users of any language tend to carry the intonation, phonological processes and pronunciation rules from their mother tongue into their English speech.

A major contributing factor is of course the fact that English is taught as a second language in most countries. In such cases, the teachers’ accent will affect their students’. Even in former British colonies such as India and Singapore whereas English remain a mandatory subject or medium of instruction in schools the accents are unavoidable because they learn and use English mostly in schools while the use of mother tongue is carried in everyday life. Grammar differences in many countries often lead to grammatical mistakes, and English vowels that are not available in their native languages will be replaced by similar vowels, thus will add to the “varieties” of the English language itself.

It is interesting to know that while many educated people use English for various purposes, they still retain their own original ideas and values that are uncommon in English speaking communities. For example, it is common for Hong Kongers to say “I wanna have a small business” or “big business” to euphemize their intention to go to the restroom (small business = to urinate; big business = you know lah!).

A friend of mine always protested his English teacher in Singapore for having corrected his grammar or pronunciation mistakes so many times he was afraid that he was going to flunk the subject even though he was able to read and write well. The “Bad English” labeling for his thick Singaporean English (Singlish) accent caused him to study in China instead of going to the US merely because he felt more confident in speaking Mandarin rather than using his “perverted” English. I’m sure that many non-native speakers feel inferiorated when compared to the standard English pronunciation used by their native peers, therefore a person who can imitate perfect pronunciation often will stand out in his native community as a high-class and well-educated persona.

Many experts have their own advices on this matter and I’m in no position to add to the issue, however I do realize the fact that most English speakers are non-native and many of them still carrying accents that by no means a sign of inferiority in their analytical skills. They perceive English merely as a tool to achieve other purposes, and if they can get along just fine with their accent then they have no need to change it. Infact they are proud of themselves that they are bilingual or multilingual people while most native English speakers can only speak their mother tongue.

Therefore we can happily conclude that we are the dominant communities within the lingua franca and we are free to bastardize the English language with our own influences and make it a bit more colourful. ^^

14 thoughts on “English Without Foreign Accent?!

  1. in Kampung Pare, Kediri… you’ll find Javlish (stand for javanesse English), hehe…
    They have their own accent, of course with their “medok”nesse….=D


  2. yeah … so far I just found ‘Javlish’ as the funniest dialect.
    dunno why …
    but I ever heard from foreigner, that they prefer to speak with Indonesian compare with the Indian. Yes, English is their language but their mother language made strange sound when they speak in English. Perhaps not all Indian, but I have met some like that.

    Agree with you, bro, English language with our own influences and make it a bit more colorful 😀


  3. Saya lebih seneng denger orang India ngomong English, soalnya mereka lurus-lurus aja tuh mbaca kata per kata. Jadi gampang ditebak artinya =))

    Kalo orang Indonesia kayaknya emang pintar “bersilat lidah”, kalau sudah fluent Englishnya, aksennya pun miriiipp banget yak? :))


  4. Saya beruntung lahir sebagai orang Indonesia. Saya merasa bahwa orang Indonesia lebih mudah mempelajari banyak bahasa dan dalam pengucapannya. Saya pernah menulis perihal ini di blog saya (artikel lama), bahwa dibandingkan (misal) dengan orang SIngapura, logat dan aksen Inggris kita lebih jelas dan lebih mudah dicerna. Dari pada singlish (singapore-english), lebih baik mendengar bahasa inggris dengan logat medhok kejawaan. 😀


    1. tapi buat orang singapur, mendingan denger singlish daripada english medhok. hehe. masalah beda sudut pandang aja sih. kalau soal mempelajari bahasa asing, emang ada beberapa suku bangsa yg ngilangin aksennya susah banget. saya setuju, orang indonesia lebih luwes kalo ngomong 😀


  5. Oom…karena saya di hotel, I’ve met a lot of people. And you know what, karena Inggris aye nggak bagus bagus amat, makanya saya paling suka berbicara dengan orang Asia Timur dan Asia Tenggara. Inggrisnya mereka gampang dimengerti dan ngga bermaksud sombong, aksen Inggris orang Indonesia jauh lebih bagus daripada mereka. Hehehe..

    Setuju sama komen di atas, Akses India mempersulit saya memahami Inggrisnya orang India.

    Yang paling susah ya jelas Inggrisnya Amerika sana. British English masih lebih mudah dimengerti, apalagi Inggrisnya Eropa Timur. hehehe…lebih gampang lagi. hehehe

    I try so hard to remove an accent from my ENglish because It was so distinct that I’m an asian, not a ‘bule’. hehehe….sometimes, I was so amaze how british people (and french) have such a very sexy accent…hehehe 😀


  6. ah saya jadi inget salah seorang guru grammar dulu, aksen apapun diterima *maklum ada beberapa teman sekelas yang dari sumatra dan sulawesi* berbeda dengan beberapa guru yang lainnya yang melarang medhok2an apalagi cengkok2 gaya susundaan 😀


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