Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Miss Doolittle, I Presume
by venitha

I was shocked recently by the brash, fast speech of co-workers visiting from FC. My ears! The goggles do nothing! I abruptly morphed from hear-no-evil to speak-no-evil, however, when talking with them made me realize that I'm developing an accent of my own. An accent somewhat pretentious. Somewhat over-enunciated, especially the t's and the o's. Somewhat slow and soft. Somewhat deliberate.

But does it sound... somewhat Singaporean? Not in the least, which I have to admit is both a relief and a surprise. I've always been highly susceptible to accents, even unconsciously mimicing the speech patterns of new friends. I swear I'm not making fun of you! I can't help it! While I could easily pick the unmistakable Singaporean accent out of a line-up, even one dominated by Asian tongues, I fail spectacularly even trying to imitate it, even silently in my head.

I view my new inescapably snobbish voice with some suspicion and self-disgust. Is it a sign of my growing comfort with the place in Asian society that my pale skin assigns me to? When everyone regards you as rich and upper-class, is it only natural to start to believe yourself entitled to special treatment? Or, at least, to sound like you believe it?

A more forgiving and, I hope, more accurate explanation is that I'm making a subconscious accommodation in order to be better understood. I remember the dawning realization not long after I started working here that the Singaporean engineers couldn't hear the difference between can and can't. My current most-excellent diction solves that problem. But turn the tables, and it's not hearing but comprehension that's the problem, and I don't know that even Professor Henry Higgins could help with that.