Tag Archives: english

The Many variations of english

By Ning Hannah Teoh

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Language is fascinating. Even within the English language, where all words are written using letters from the same alphabet, there are so many variations. Every region where English is spoken has its own accent, slang, and grammatical structure, formed through centuries of culture and history.

Growing up in Malaysia, I was familiar with a hybrid version of the English language— colloquially coined “Manglish”— which was a combination of English, Malay, and other miscellaneous languages. English sentences would end in Malay and Mandarin suffixes (-lah, -mah, etc.). You would often hear a Malaysian person go “Stop it lah” or “Got meh?” which respectively translates to “You should stop,” and “Do they really have it?” English in Malaysia reflects the multicultural and multiethnic diversity that exists within the country, and it is an excellent example of how varied English is not only across regions in the United States, but in different parts of the world as well.

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Ever since I came to the United States and eventually USC, I’ve been learning different variations of English and all of the regional words and phrases you encounter when you move around. When I was living in Boston, I learned that sprinkles (the ones you put as a topping on ice cream) were called “jimmies”. I also found out how much Bostonians were fond of their Dunkin Donuts, so much so that they refer to the coffee and donut franchise by the nickname “Dunkies”. Once, my boss who was based in Washington D.C. assigned me a task where I had to look for educational-support organizations within the DMV. At first, I was very confused because I thought the DMV was the Department of Motor Vehicles. It took me a while to realize that in this context, the DMV referred to the Washington metropolitan area, or D.C, Maryland, and Virginia.

I have to admit that when I first came to the U.S., I worked hard to get rid of my native accent. Even though English is my first language, I spoke in tones and inflections that were unfamiliar to the American ear. I pronounced “three” as “tree” and said “geo-GRA-phy” instead of “ge-O-graphy”. In the beginning, I would mimic how Americans discarded their t’s and took out the h in herbs. In some ways, I didn’t want to sound foreign. I didn’t want to be looked at as “other”— a sentiment I believe many international students share. Especially under the political climate of the previous government administration and with the recent rise of anti-Asian violence, international students are all the more aware of the hostility we might face simply by being international. Coming to a foreign country alone is already tough in and of itself, but knowing that you will potentially face outward discrimination from a vocal minority because of where you come from or how you are perceived is a different kind of fear. So, I worked hard to sound as American as possible so that fewer questions were asked of me.

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But the truth is, I am not American. I grew up calling an elevator a lift and I grew up drinking teh tarik (“pulled tea”) and not unsweetened iced tea. Coming to USC has made me prouder about my identity as an international student in this student community. I have so much cultural experience to share— language included— why would I ever hide it? Seeing the thriving and diverse international community here has made me realize that the international experience is unique and that I have been blessed with the opportunity to be part of the cultural exchange between international and domestic students. This includes the interaction between accents, slang, and everything in between.

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My Experience Taking ALI 252

By PinShiuan Lee

Edited by Natalie Grace

[3.5 minute read]

Currently, I am a postdoctoral trainee working on biomedical informative research at USC for the past three months. Prior to this, I received all of my education in Taiwan. My English is in no way perfect and I am not the most talkative person, even when I speak in my native language. When I started my work at USC, I would do research all day without talking unless I had meetings where I needed to discuss aspects of my work. Since I didn’t have many opportunities to improve my fluency, I was urgently searching for a class I could enroll in to improve my pronunciation. This led me to enroll in ALI 252, an advanced pronunciation course.

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I was initially surprised by how interesting advanced pronunciation was. I liked the classmates I met, and class was full of a diversity of perspectives and an abundance of topics to chat about. One topic we always seemed to return to was popular movies and TV shows. I heard of the show The Office, which is a mockumentary sitcom television series, for the first time in this class. I learned a lot of sentences and phrases that depict the everyday work lives of office employees. Although I worked from home, it was funny to imagine having colleagues like these characters. Every class we watched clips from The Office ended in peals of laughter.

Besides having a great time watching and observing characters on shows, our professor also provided us with many innovative tools to help give us more confidence in oral expression such as games, competitions, or playing roles. We tried to create sounds, produce voices, and understand our vocal range and stamina. It is difficult to articulate clarity if you don’t spend time practicing sounds. Using interesting and funny ways to articulate the words you would like to express encourages me to be more talkative. During this time, I could refine my personal speaking style in small groups and classroom settings.

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Why I love Supernatural and How it Helped me Practice English

By Morgana Li

[3 minute read]

It has been 15 years since the first episode of Supernatural aired on The CW. Now the series has come to its final season and the finale aired on Nov. 19, 2020. I became a part of the Supernatural family in 2015 when I watched ten seasons in order to catch up to the current episodes. The story itself is about hunting supernatural monsters, ghosts, and demons that come from folklore and myths. While watching, however, I realized that Supernatural is also a show about family, friendship, sacrifice, and humanity. Though the plot may not always make sense, the show has created many multidimensional characters that the audience loves. 

The main characters are Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, and Castiel. Dean and Sam are brothers, and Castiel (Cas) is an angel. They go on adventures across the country saving people from supernatural monsters. What fascinated me most is the way they treated each other and how they showed their humanity despite significant challenges. At first, Sam and Dean were the only consistent characters in the show, but others soon joined the main storyline. Castiel became one of the most significant characters as he slowly became closer to Sam and Dean, who warmly welcomed him into their family. In their dysfunctional family, they were always willing to sacrifice everything for each other. As Sam said to Dean, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” I think one must be incredibly lucky to have someone who loves you that much and to know that there are always people you can rely on.

Another interesting aspect of the show is watching the characters travel across the United States, living in motels, eating fast food, and passing through pretty much every state in the US. As an international student, I found it to be one of the best sources to learn about American culture and life, and I’d like to travel to many of the places I have seen them travel to on the show. Since Supernatural’s theme is about hunting monsters in America, many urban legends and different forms of folklore were introduced to me through the show, such as Bloody Mary, the Wendigo, the myth of the Hook Man, and more. The Bible also plays a role in the different legends discussed in the show. I learned many pop culture references based on these intriguing stories, which made it easier to communicate with native English speakers because I had more topics to explore and slang to use. One of the main characters, Dean, uses a lot of hilarious slang terms that are part of authentic American English, and these can be used in daily life by international students looking to blend more casual terms into their speaking. 

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