Friday, February 18, 2005


"Do you always speak in that voice in Hong Kong?" Jen asked me. "It sounds kind of weird!"

"Yeah I guess so. When you speak English mostly with non-native speakers you end up adjusting so that people understand you"

The voice that Jen found so strange was my work voice. It's derives from a complicated mix of influences. Like Cantonese, the syllables are very distinct. Like French, the letter 'h' is not pronounced at the beginning of words. Like many South Asian languages, a lot of 'd' and 't' sounds are pronounced with the tongue further back in the mouth than usual.

But that's not the only voice that I've got. Apart from my 'normal voice', I also have a very Honky voice that freaks friends out even more than my work voice. Plus I've got my classy 'international voice' that I use in more formal situations. The international voice can slow down according to the English proficiency of the person I'm communicating with.

This week, however, I've had to search through my repertoire for a voice I haven't used in ages. I have a new friend who's just returned to Hong Kong after three years study at the University of Wollongong. It's amazing how Australian one can become after three years in Wollongong!

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