地道的美式英语

我是初一开始在镇上的市立中学学英语的。那时初高中的英语我感觉都是英国式的英语。进入厦大后,由于口语老师都是从美国来的,有一门经济学课也是美国的富布莱特基金教授来教,所以美式英语的影响就较多。再加上大三和大四时考托福,所以自然也是练美式听力。记得当时班上有很多人用短波收音机来收听美国之音的英语节目,我也包括在内。

当时,可能现在也是如此,报章上的关于在美国学有所成的人的报道,不少都说某人“操一口流利地道的美式英语”。那时对此人都会羡慕的要死,心想我若能达到这一地步,岂不快哉!

在美国居住了近11年之后,才知道那样的评论大部分都不可能属实。我想原因主要有以下两点:

1 什么是地道的美国英语?一般人的理解大多是好莱坞影片里的或是播音员的英语。那样的英语主要是加利福尼亚口音,并不能代表美国多样的口音及方言。

举例来说,美国南部的英语有浓重的口音,虽然在南部之内也会有地域的差异。像德克萨斯、密西西比州的不少人都会说得慢一些,音调长一些。而新英格兰(波士顿地区)、纽约、及中西部的口音也都有自己的特色。这里且不论各个族裔内的独有的口音及俚语;

2 即使我们把加利福尼亚英语作为地道的美国英语,对于中国出生、中国长大的人来说,能够说得标准到听不出口音的人,可以说是极少极少。实际上这对任何国家的人来说都是一样。因为人一超过十几岁的年龄,那种自然的接收语言的窗口已经逐渐关闭了。带一些口音是正常的。

换句话说,讲带口音的英语又有何坊?我个人有以下经验与读者分享:

1 讲英语时不要追求酷和潇洒,能说清楚、明白、简洁是最好的。在很多情况下,你要说慢一些才能达到这一目的;

2 你的口音是你个人的一部分。实际上不少人会认为外国口音有意思,甚或有魅力。施瓦辛格的演技那么差,美国不少人是冲着他的浓重的奥地利-德国口音去看他的电影的。当然也不要自以为某种口音特有魅力而刻意模仿,弄得不好,只会东施效颦,适得其反;

3 对交谈中的重要信息,不要囫囵吞枣,不懂装懂。对不明白的东西,可以问对方,或者换个角度说一说,尽量减少误解。

至于我自己,我的另一半说我的英语没有典型的中国口音。我们的好友苏珊也说我的口音很奇怪,单从语音上不好听出我从哪儿来。奇怪的是,不知为何,一杯小酒之后,我的英语和汉语都变得非常流利。

以下是在离我工作不太远的快餐店里拍的照片。挺有意思的。

Sign from Fast Track restaurant

7 thoughts on “地道的美式英语”

  1. Good post. I’ve always found accents fascinating. I think you’re right that many people are attracted to accents. I think Americans tend to be in particular. I remember when my great grandmotehr was alive. She immigrated here from Sicily with her parents in 1904. Reflecting back now, I realize that she had quite a heavy accent, but when I was a small child, I didn’t notice it at all. I take it you and your wife are both immigrants? It must be an interesting experience for your son. He’s very lucky in that he’ll probably have near native Swedish, Chinese and of course native English.

    As a new student of Chinese, I got hung up on accents myself. I always took it as a matter of pride when I spoke with someone on the phone and then later when I met them for the first time, they couldn’t believe I was a foreigner. I’ve lost that degree of fluency I’m afraid. But like you write here, it’s not really that important. I know the typcial American accent when speaking Mandarin, but unfortunatley I can’t hear my own. I think that’s an interesting phenomenon as well.

    Again great stuff here. Well, my flight home takes me through Chicago, but too bad I am there for only a few hours…

  2. Thanks PR!

    I am a PR in the US. Maria is on student visa.

    Our son is fluent in Japanese, I think, because we sent him to a Japanese immersion Montessori school for pre-school and kindergarten. Japanese is as close to Chinese as I could get when there was no good Chinese school nearby.

    I don’t know Japanese myself so it is hard for me to judge his level. His English is fluent. But he only knows very limited Mandarin Chinese and Swedish, probably some Spanish also. The main reason is that Mom and Dad only speak English to each other. And we didn’t want to confuse him with all the different languages. In hindsight, we probably should have spoken our native language to him anyway. I am introducing more Chinese now, but I’ve got to be careful with my method, because I do not want to turn him off.

    I totally understand the desire to have flawless accent. I was like that too. Like you said, sometimes people mistake me as a native English speaker, usually when I am relaxed and well-rested. I got a big kick out of that too. It’s kind of funny that I think my ears are not that sensitive to English outside North America, having living here for so long. I realized that when I was in Barcelona last month.

    Sent you a separate email. Don’t know how long your layover in O’Hare will be. We could still do a beering, if it can be worked out.

  3. looks like it will only be for a couple of hours on Friday 24 March, from 1230 or so until 1440…a shame!

  4. That’s all right PR. I believe one of those days we will meet 🙂

    Hope you will have a great stay back home. I am always looking forward to your great posts!

  5. Thanks for your ideas to oral English.I learnt something from your article.Speaking English frequently is necessary in working.And It’s helpful for getting a better job.I always hope that I can speak English frequently.But it’s a pity,my oral English is poor. I am in Shanghai.
    Regards.

  6. Jango,

    I am glad that you found this entry helpful.

    I am thinking of writing some more on this topic, so stay tuned…

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