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Could you spell that please?

February 25, 2009

I am no stranger to people not understanding me. I was born in South Carolina and lived in the somewhat deep south until 4th grade. We moved to Germany for 5th grade and sometimes people did not understand what I was saying – I had me a twang. For 7th grade we moved to Georgia – minus some of the twang – I had lost most of it – and some of my words seemed odd and, strangely, less accented.

Six years in Georgia fixed that quite nicely. Pass me a mint julep. Pretty please. And then off to college I went. Up North.  Well (just barely) south of the Mason Dixon line. But North is in the eye of the beholder.  It was in a very diverse area but an area with no real accent of its own. Enter my southern drawl. Could you spell that please – I heard that more than once and it seemed so insulting. Doesn’t everyone say PEEEEEEnuhhhhts, puh leeeeees?

Then there was the time I went to visit my cousin in Wyoming. Play me some mountain music, Hillbilly. The friends of my cousin laughed so hard at my accent that their sody pop came right out of them their noses. I cried for over an hour. They were not tears of joy.

So moving to India and hearing the different accents hasn’t been too hard for me. I can sympathize. I just slow down my ears and listen up real good. It is really amazing, even the Americans here are from all over the world. It is the United Nations of Accents.

Last week, I started taking Hindi lessons. Okay, I have had one (ek) lesson. But I have been trying out some of my new words.

It turns out I still have me a funny little accent. The three Indian men in my daily life, Raju, Ravi, and Kahn all have a hard time understanding just exactly what it is I am trying to say. When they slow down their ears – they can understand most of it. It is a lesson in slow for all of us.

I was leaving to go to the market the other day and Raju and Ravi taught me how to say goodbye – ta ta. Sounds like Tigger – hey, I can remember that. I can even spell it.

Then they tried to teach me how to say “take me to” Defence (this is not misspelled – remember the British influence here) Colony market. I don’t even remember the words they tried to teach me because I am blocking this from recent memory. They told me – I practiced – they laughed – I made them pinky swear they weren’t teaching me to call our driver a jerk – and I practiced again.

Then I got in the car

Me: Kahn and then “what (I thought) they taught me to say”
Kahn: Ma’am?
Me: Doesn’t that mean “I want to go to Defence Colony Market”?
Kahn: Ma’am?
Me: What did I just say?
Kahn: Defence Colony Ma’am?
Me: Okay. Defence Colony Market it is. Can we go there?
Kahn: Yes Ma’am.

Then our driver explains the market to me. He’ll park here and wait for me here. There are two sides. You go down the right and then come back up the right. He’ll wait here. Here is where he will be. Waiting for me. Ma’am.

Okay, it is not lost on me that he could not understand “I want to go to the market” but he could completely explain the market to me. Maybe I am just language retarded. Maybe falling out of a swing when I was little and hitting my head on cement really was something to be a wee bit more concerned about.

My teacher is coming back on Monday and you can be sure, my first lesson will be – I want to go to…….

Ta Ta.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Lee permalink
    March 7, 2009 1:43 am

    Check out this list, really funny:

  2. February 28, 2009 7:27 am

    It’s funny, but we generally have trouble following American accents, especially a southern drawl. 20 years of non-stop Hollywood has left me considerably better trained at it than my poor mother though, who can only understand British English. I guess this is a universal thing.

  3. February 27, 2009 3:17 am

    Jeanne – my remaining southern twang gets right in the way – it is helpful to have an instructor – I have only had a few lessons and I am not practicing enough – but I did use some of my new phrases at the market the other day – it surprised the vendors and that was fun

    Lola – I took Spanish many moons ago and that wasn’t too bad – Hindi is similar with the verb and direct object placement – but most people here speak enough English that I quickly revert to English

    Tottsmom – You would be fine here – most people speak English well enough that you could communicate with them!

  4. Tottsmom permalink
    February 26, 2009 9:20 pm

    So as I read this, it is not Hindi I am having trouble understanding. I have just finished a phone call to an Engilsh major friend of mine. You see, my 6th grader needed help with her English homework, not my best subject. My high school grammer book is open on the desk in front of me as we contemplate compound subjects. Maybe this is God’s way of telling me that India was not such a good idea for me. I cannot figure out English, what make me think Hindi would be any easier. Good luck with the lessons. Should we mail you Rosetta Stone for Hindi?

  5. February 26, 2009 8:34 pm

    I’m pretty good at understanding most languages if I’m face to face. Over the phone, I just can’t do it. Good luck with your lessons.

  6. February 26, 2009 8:02 am

    I have a similar challenge. My Hindi is horribly bad and my son says that my accent is distinctly “Connecticut on the Jamuna”. It’s really a challenge when you know ten words and can’t fit them together into any meaningful sentence.

    Are you finding taking lessons worthwhile?

  7. February 26, 2009 2:03 am

    Deep – that means thank you, right? In which case – you are welcome.

    Badass – yep, you just have to slow your ears down – which a good thing no matter who you are talking to!

    Josie – I can only imagine! I too have lost most of my accent too – until I get mad. Then it comes on full force!

    Loco – I love me some Tigger!

  8. February 25, 2009 5:06 pm

    Ta Ta (-: That’s cute! I used to like Tigger too. I never realized he was Indian, but I guess India is one of the few countries where Bengal Tigers are found if not the only. Duh!
    Live and learn (-; Thanks for teaching


  9. February 25, 2009 5:06 pm

    Ta Ta (-: That’s cute! I used to like Tigger too. I never realized he was Indian, but I guess India is one of the few countries where Bengal Tigers are found if not the only. Duh!
    Live and learn (-; Thanks for teaching


  10. February 25, 2009 12:45 pm

    Our accent has given me all sorts of stories as well, dear friend. Imagine being Pres of a the class of a Boston medical school and everytime I would get up to speak getting all sorts of southern slurs yelled lovingly at me. Plus all the male professors and attendings being incredibly condescending to the “Georgia peach” student. AHHHHH. I quickly rid myself of that accent – and such a shame.
    Even funnier was my Yankee to a Southern wedding in the southern sticks. It was as if the 2 ‘camps’ were from different countries.
    Good luck learning Hindi!

  11. February 25, 2009 12:31 pm

    I used to work with a man from India. His accent was very thick, but I did just like you said… You kind of have to listen past them to be able to understand them at first. After a while though, it becomes old hat.

  12. February 25, 2009 8:24 am


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