21 October 2007

The battle of the Accents

On the Presidential campaign front Barack Obama, one of the candidates in running addressed that his audience are not the hispanic americans, asian americans, afro-americans but the United States of America. On a popular TV show,the Topmodel, where prospective top models contested for the season, and when an hispanic american and the russian american were the 2 leads, Tyra Banks, the hostess exclaimed that the contest now became ‘The Battle of the Accents." I realised that as the world globally connects, co-operates, contradicts and goes on wars among themselves, it is the English language which is the global force that allows people to talk to each other. Indeed, the English having anglicised the world – it has become a battle of the accents. However the french are not the easy one to cave in.

I was at the French Institute of Alliance franchaise, where beginner french students greeted each other “ Ca Va ( How are you )? And the other person responded, "Ca Va Bien." A passerby french woman was very upset with the conversation that she stopped in her tracks and addressed the two people. “We, the french do not respond like the English – “Ca Va Bien”. Instead we say “palmal.”(spellcheck?) which means okay.” When you learn to speak french, learn its culture too.” It does not come as a surprise that the french language did not spread even when they ruled over certain parts of England and its surrounding for fifty years. To still use french words as part of the English language is considered sophistication itself.

There are several of us who are reading this whose first language is not English, but have heard and spoken the language since we started learning to form words as toddlers .Whereever the English went, it roped in people as its slaves and expanded the kingdom and with it adopted many words into English. English, in becoming the most widely spoken language in the world has been influenced more as as a vocabulary than other languages and is always in a flux. For eg: the word guru, a word in Hindi ( language spoken in India) has been increasingly used in the English language that it is now part of the english dictionary. So is the word, restaurant, which originally has its roots in French.

Though English is used as the most colloquial form of language in the business world universally, the Anglo-Saxons way of using expressions, phrases and idioms is different from the Euro-Americans who has settled in the land of the Arawaks (now Americas) who came in search of gold speak English. Though each one battles over who has the right or the authority in deciding what the standard is, one of the greatest figures in literary land, George Bernard Shaw, an Irish, came up with his own spellings. From the east to the west of the globe and from the north to the south of the globe people have found their language – interspersing their own mothertongue with English. For instance the spanglish as in the US. In the world we tread, we have realised that the rulers of oil dictates other countries as well. So who is it this time – the “gas” calling Englishmen or the “petrol” calling Englishmen?

If one eavesdrops a stranger’s conversaton ( not that I recommend) on the streets of New York you will learn how a native spanish speaker sounds different from a chinese speaker to an arabic speaker or a guyanese when they speak English. This constant clashing of English voices on the the streets of New York is a remarkable feature of the language.The grammar and the syntax are the same , but the phonetics vary while English is spoken and broken.


Shaji.k said...

hi anrosh, an excellent entry on the globalisation of english. the success of enlish, as u point out, is its adaptability, to take and incorporate as its own words and phrases from other languages without losing its identity. the next wave to watch shoud be 'chinglish' as i put it or how the chinese who are learning english at break neck speed are going to speak and write it. i know a jesuit priest from kerala who is now teaching enlish in china and he has told me of the urgency with which the chinese, old and young, are learning the language.

i recently took a course in french from alliance but got to go a long way to become fluent . there are many places in africa and east asia where french is spoken. theere is the organisation internationale francophone, which is an union of french speaking countries.

Anrosh said...

Shaji K, "chinglish" - haven't heard that one before. now i do.

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