They say language is one of the quickest ways to establish personal connections. Having grown up in multiple countries, adapting to new environments was always a priority of mine, and that meant picking up on the (sometimes subtle) differences in communication between the widely varied cultures and societies that I came across. To give you a little background, I lived in Saudi Arabia for the first ten years of my life, and then moved to India for the rest of middle school. I went to high school in Canada, and then attended Engineering school in India. Currently a master’s student and conversation partner here at USC, I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few international students along the way, and one thing that some of us have in common is our ability to speak multiple dialects/accents of English fluently, due to our diverse upbringing.
I grew up speaking a very neutral Indian accent for the first 9 years of my life, due to my stay in Saudi Arabia. Many people are not aware of this, but Indian accents come in varying flavors, which is why when I moved to India for middle school, my classmates and I had trouble understanding each other for the first few months. When I moved to Canada for high school 4 years later, the differences in accents, phrases, word usage, and intonation (amongst many other things) were quite obvious. Within a few months, my little brother and I had already adapted a neutral general North American accent, garnished with a few of the more obvious characteristics of Canadian English.
Once I moved to a different part of India for Engineering school there was a accent divide between me and my classmates once again. Within the year however, I had molded my tongue into sounding more local without much hassle. This brought about some new challenges for me – I regularly conversed with my Canadian friends in my north american accent, and switched to the new Indian one with my Indian friends.
Last summer I had the opportunity to visit my family in Guadalajara, Mexico. I had been there a few times before when I was younger, but unfortunately I do not remember much from those trips. This time, we stayed at my aunt’s house on the outskirts of the city. I was excited to see my large extended family and to revisit the beautiful city with more mature eyes. The trip was given to me by my wonderful abuelos (grandparents in Spanish) who wanted to bring me back to my cultural roots.
It was an unbelievable trip. The city was full of people and happiness radiated throughout. Vendors had cold ice cream (perfect for those hot summer days) and the markets teamed with the most vibrant fruit that had been picked earlier that day. The architecture of the city is mainly neoclassical with influences from indigenous contributions and later modern European influences. The city has beautiful churches, markets, plazas, and theaters, in one of which, the Teatro Degollado, I got to see my uncle perform. He plays the classical piano and, on this occasion, he played with a Russian violinist.
In the big Mexican cities, houses are wall to wall with each other and, more often than not, do not have backyards. Because the people tend to be very cramped, the city makes up for it with a lot of parks around the city with basketball hoops, slides, and jungle gyms.
“Can we help you?” If my roommate Wendy and I had smart phones or even internet access back on January 7th, 1989, we might never have heard those reassuring words spoken by two young, nice-looking Italian guys on that fateful Saturday night. Wendy and I had just arrived in Florence the day before to start a three month overseas studies program. We were placed with a host family, the Miniati’s, in the “suburbs” and we could only get home by bus from the city center. According to my travel journal, we had gotten on bus 23C, realized it was the wrong one, and then got off, completely turned around and lost. We found a payphone, but then realized that we needed a special token called a getone to use it, and we had no idea where to get one. Had we had our handy dandy mobile devices, we could have done a number of things like look up the bus schedules and routes, gotten exact directions to our host family’s house and hailed a taxi, or just have even called our host family to come get us. Instead, we just stood on the street corner not knowing what to do, laughing because it was better than crying.That’s when we heard those magic words first spoken by Leonardo, a tall slim guy with dark hair, deep-set blue eyes and an authentic Italian nose. He was accompanied by his buddy, Filippo, who was more boyish looking. Continue reading A World Without GPS→
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction