Travel Magazine

Lessons in Language

By Russellvjward @russellvjward


Our English language is funny - a fat chance and slim chance are the same thing. ~J. Gustav White.
The English language is even funnier when you've forgotten how to speak it.
I was in a meeting at work this week (not a very interesting one at that). At this meeting, we were talking 'data'. Now I'm no technical genius and at school I was admittedly bad at maths, but somehow I've been roped into a fairly significant data-based project. So I'm in a meeting listening to non-stop talk about data and not understanding very much in the process.
I opened my mouth to contribute to the discussion and remembered I'd forgotten how to say the word 'data'. It may sound stupid but it's been a recurring issue for me lately. Is it day-ta or is it dar-ta? Somehow, somewhere, I've lost the ability to pronounce this ridiculously simple word.
I found myself having numerous conversations in my head over the past few weeks, questioning whether day-ta is the Australian English pronunciation and dar-ta the British English. I thought I'd worked it out.  
Day-ta is so obviously Australian. It sounds kind of American (think the 1983 movie, War Games) and my Aussie compatriots do like to embrace the American language. It follows that dar-ta is the true-blue British way of pronouncing the word. So when my Australian colleague then asked me how my dar-ta project was coming along, my theory was blown right out of the water.

Lessons in Language

Language Love.  Image: woodleywonderworks

This expat's use of the English language is proving more challenging and confused the longer I live abroad.
Aside from the ominous changes to my accent (an Aussie lilt is starting to become a regular feature), I'm acquiring a strange new vocabulary containing a selection of words from the Canadian and Australian dictionaries sprinkled in amongst my own British lexicon. It's almost as if I'm creating a distinct pidgin English language over here - and one that only I seem able to understand.
I can only assume that this sort of thing happens to anyone who spends long periods of time away from the homeland. A strange pronunciation here, a uniquely foreign word there. A mongrel of a language as a result.
I now think and speak with an unusual mix of words and phrases. Alien terminology invades my repertoire and I'll sit up wondering where exactly that phrase or saying came from. Aussie friends at a bar might wonder why I've told them I'm heading off to the 'washroom' and it's not unusual to see an English relative wondering what on earth a 'boofhead' is.
There's probably only one cure for this language inadequacy mine. I'll need to book in a quick trip to the Motherland to sort things out and fix things up.  Five minutes with a couple of pals in the Old Dart will have me back to my former ways speaking the language of my forefathers with relative ease and in that most beautiful of dialects, the Basingstoke drawl.
Until I return, you'll find me in a corner, perplexed as always, asking that most important question of questions: is it pah-sta or par-sta? I honestly no longer know.
Do tell me about your own language inadequacies. Any unusual foreign words creeping into daily conversations with the locals?


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