03 April 2012

English With An Accent

As compared to other Asian countries (Singapore excluded), Malaysians should be grateful as the majority of us can speak English very well. Some of the pakcik & makcik can even speak this international language though it wont be that perfect but good enough to converse & relay the messages to others.

If you go to other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan or Thailand, you'll be facing hard time communicating with them. Majority of the people there doesnt know a single word of English - even their youngsters too - let alone the pakcik & makcik.

What I'm gonna blog today is not about how well Malaysians speaks English but more on how they speak the language. If you noticed, there are two types of English-speaking community in our country :

1)    The genuine ones
2)    The wannabes

Ok, lets start with the first ones - the genuine group. This group belongs to the people who were born & breed abroad where everybody around them speaks with an accent. English with Mat Salleh accent is usually acquired after years of living in a Mat Salleh's country. It's quite natural to adopt an accent after being exposed to another culture for a certain period of time - it's a form of adaptation, I would call it.

Some of these people dont even leave the country but the people around them speaks that way. Their dad / mum is an expatriate for instant. Or they went to an international school where all their friends speaks with an accent. 

But if you've been living in Malaysia for 20 years then went to Britain for a year & came back speaking like Brit. 5 years or more is okay but 1 year? And to make it worse, they act as if they were born English as well, which basically means emulating the English personality / lifestyle. I don't mind if they emulate the good, beneficial aspects of the English culture though but please dont be a wannabe. No matter how interested you are in a culture, it takes several years (obviously more than a year) to move from one refined accent to the other.

I have an acquaintance who speaks in deep Mat Salleh accent - though she has never been more than 7 days to any Mat Salleh countries and sure enough, she's adapting the Mat Salleh's lifestyle as well. Okay, she's been working with an International company for years but so did I. The only thing I am lacking is a Mat Salleh boyfriend like her (unfortunately my "asset" is not abundance enough to attract one). She's now married to her boyfie & her accents gets thicker by the days - which I believe was greatly assisted by the "fluids transfer" between them hahaha.

A lot of us really cant stand her accent coz they sounded so made up & fake. There's one time where a non-Malay speaks Bahasa Melayu with her & she still responded in English (with pride) which really confused us. It's not that she cant speak Malay - she can even speaks Malay with the local dialects for God's sake. It's just that speaking English with the Mat Salleh accent makes her feel that she's one level up in the local social hierarchy, I supposed. 

Another scenario I would like to share here which happens in my own working place. The nature of our work requires us to speak with the kwailos all the time. There's this one colleague of mine who would automatically change his accent whenever that needs arise. From an Ah Beng he suddenly transforms himself to Andrew & he thought he was making an impression by doing so but little did he knows that he's just making a fool out of himself ! 

My point here is that speaking in English with an accent doesnt place you at a special rank in the local social hierarchy. Neither would you gain more respect from others. In fact, would end up being the gossip material among your peers. What matters most is the perfection of your English in terms of grammar & pronunciation. 

To those who naturally speaks English with the Mat Salleh accent, just continue being yourself & be proud of it. And to those who are just faking it, please dont over do it coz for all I know, you've just turn yourself into a real loser !


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