Posts Tagged ‘language’

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I was born and raised in England but having lived in California for the last 13 years you would think I would be bi-lingual. And by that I mean fluent in both English English and American English. Well I’m not. Not even close.

I have picked up nothing in the way of an American accent. This is not deliberate – it just hasn’t happened. My daughter was 6 when we moved here. She left the UK with a broad colloquial English accent; within three weeks of landing she sounded like a native California. Age is obviously a factor but I’m not sure it’s the whole story. Theories anyone?

Why am I complaining? Surely the accent makes me wildly irresistible to American women? Actually it doesn’t. Except occasionally on the phone…… aka “you’ve got a great face for radio”. But the real issue is that many Americans simply don’t understand me. I know I’m a bit of a mumbler and the PD doesn’t help but the bottom line is I might as well be talking in Martian.

I have a particular problem being undenstood by people for whom English is a second language. This was never truer than when a few years ago I dropped my daughter off at a party in Montebello and having had a stressful day and an hour and a half window before pick up time I decided to seek out a Mexican restaurant where I could relax with an ice cold margarita. Of course not all Mexican restaurants have liquor licenses so I used the cars navigation system to locate and call likely candidates. It was a nightmare, typically the conversation went something along the lines of:

“Ola”

“Ola, do you serve margaritas?

“……..what?

“Margarita, the drink, do, you, serve, them?

“Que?”

“Do you have a liquor license?”

“Ah, 4100 Montebello Avenue”

“No, I have your address – I just need to make sure you can serve cocktails”

“Yes, yes we have quesadillas”

“No hungry but getting very thirsty”

“You are angry?”

“No I’m not…..I just want…actually, don’t worry about it – thank you for your time – goodbye”

“Yes, 5.30”

And variations of this with each call. Finding a margarita in Montebello should be a fairly easy task given its 80% Hispanic demographic but I had somehow turned it into rocket science. I was exasperated and running out of time when I tried one more number- and:

“Do you sell margaritas?”

“Excuse me?”

“Margarita”

“Que?”

“Margarita, Mar – gar – ita, MAR – GAR- ITA”

“Ahhhh margarita!”

Finally I’d got through, my fix was within touching distance….

“So you sell them right?

“No, I’m sorry, Margarita no work here any more.”

I think that was the point at which I gave up.

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