Porcupyn's Blog

October 17, 2011

My Commentary – on pronunciations in the commentary box!

Filed under: Cricket,Humour,Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 9:23 am

It is funny listening to the commentary team for the second ODI – one Englishman (Collingwood, I presume) and one Indian (Gavaskar). First Collingwood complains that names in the subcontinent are difficult to pronounce and gives Jayasuriya as an example (pronounces it जेसूरिया or something, and then complains how easily the subcontinenters roll it off their tongues).

Then, Collingwood asks Gavaskar teach him to pronounce his own name, and the latter obliges with “सुनील गावस्कर”; fifteen minutes after the lesson, Collingwood is back to his true form, pronouncing the first syllable in Gavaskar’s first name as “Sun” and the latter syllable as “Nill”, ends up with सन्निल गवस्खार. Kind of makes sense, when you realize how folks in India spell the words (as they are pronounced) – for example, “lekar” is pronounced by Indians just like a Westerner would pronounce “Laker” (which is what I was wondering driving to work this morning, and listening to this song).

And though Gavaskar, for his part, tries hard (example ठेन for “ten”), he cannot maintain it through thick (थिक्ख) and thin (थिन)!

December 3, 2010

On Accents

Filed under: Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 12:14 pm

What is an accent? I assume that the best definition from dictionary.com are the ones numbered 8 and 9:

a mode of pronunciation, as pitch or tone, emphasis pattern,or intonation, characteristic of or peculiar to the speech of aparticular person, group, or locality: French accent; Southernaccent. Compare tone ( def. 5 ) .

such a mode of pronunciation recognized as being of foreign origin: He still speaks with an accent.

Just like the popular idiom about one man’s meat (food) being another man’s poison, how I speak a language would sound perfectly normal to me, but could sound heavily accented to you. In my book, there is no right or wrong accent; at best, you could be termed as having an accent if yours was different from the role you were applying for. For instance, if a speaker who speaks English without an accent in the USA were to try for the role of a BBC newscaster, he or she would definitely be termed as possessing an accent.

That said, if you live in a certain area and are used to listening to people talking a particular language – say English, because it is quite prevalent in the world – you will probably have a good idea of what the average accent is. And that is what you would use as a benchmark to tell whether a specific speaker does or does not possess an accent. In other words, whether or not a person possesses an accent is determined by two factors – the person and the ambience.

Now why am I bringing all of this up? Well, a few months ago, some friends showed me this clip of Sofia Vergara (who I had never heard of before) talking about her aaaksent (3:00 minute mark onwards). Well, she would not have one, as long as she stays in Colombia or visits, for instance, Spain 😉

I had a similar personal experience. But before I describe that, I need to refer to an old post I had written to show that since when I could differentiate between accents, it has been a hobby of mine to see if I could place a speaker (as in, where he or she is from) based solely on his or her accent. In other words, which part of the world would that person have to be placed in such that he or she would appear to have no accent!

So here it was, a month or so ago, that I was at a local school carnival talking with another parent volunteer. Something was not right in her English. I could not put my finger on it, but it definitely did not sound accent-free. In fact, it sounded out-of-USAish. Coupled with the fact that she definitely looked Oriental, I asked her where she was from. Upon hearing that she was born and brought up in CA by her parents in Southeast Asia, I unwittingly exclaimed: “Oh, so that is where you got your accent from!”

The next few minutes were spent by the two of us discussing whether she had an accent (my point of view) or not (her point of view). Ultimately, we had to agree to disagree … and I conceded that she might just have a CA accent, which was different from the local (Floridian) accent.

This morning, I got to thinking about the incident. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I have a personal benchmark of an average USA accent. Most of the USA born folks that I meet will likely fall close to this average or a standard deviation off it (if you know what I mean). It is when folks start deviating further than that, that my ears perk up and I try to figure out where the speaker is from!

Similarly, I bet that each locality has its own average accent and a point past which you would be labelled as having an accent, and this would be true about not just English, but most languages. But one thing I am pretty sure, if your parents (and other folks you closely associate with in your childhood) are not native English speakers – or are not close enough in accent to the locality or country you are born and brought up in – you will inadvertently pick up an accent that ties you to where they are from (or where their accents are from).

July 2, 2009

Are you smarter than a third-grader*?

Filed under: Family,Our Languages,Parenting — Porcupyn @ 5:24 pm

A mother who can talk Hindi without an accent, but stumbles when faced with high-falutin language, forwarded the following question to a father. The father who claims proficiency in the language (on the basis of a “distinction” in Class Xth CBSE boards now nearly three decades – has it really been that long? – ago, plus because he grew up north of the Vindhyas!) tried and failed to express full confidence in his picks.

He forwarded the list to his sister who, because she converses with her kids in Hindi and has a bunch of Hindi-speaking friends, is more of the bona-fide Hindi guru of the extended family now. She promptly wrote back crossing out a couple of her brother’s picks. However, she had to use the process of elimination to complete the matches. So, the jury is still – tentatively speaking – out on the veracity of the final picks!

Anyway, let’s see कौन कितने पानी में है, shall we? Without consulting brother, or बिरादर google (FYI, mother tried her usual tried-and-tested tactic but failed this time) or the nearest copy of your आदर्श हिन्दी शब्द्कोश, would you try your hand at matching up the following?

To ensure a level playing field, only the e-mail is paraphrased. The rest is just as I (the not-so-smart-after-all father, in case someone is unsure as to who is who) got it, i.e., it is one whole “sic” question!

As part of his homework, Baab needs to match these sounds with the animals that make it.

Chinghaadtha Hai
Rumbhaathi Hai
Dundaktha Hai
Mimiyaathi Hai
Hinhinaatha hai
Bhonktha hai
renktha hai
dahaadtha hai

The above are to be matched with these animals: Baagh, Haathi, Kooker, Gadha, Bakri, Bhains, Ghoda, Gaay

Bonus points: Pick the odd animal out of these three … (when last seen, brother and sister were still arguing over this one online!)

– बाघ
– शेर
– सिंह

* = in Hindi 😉

June 27, 2009

On the Art of ‘Sic’ing

Filed under: Humour,Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 9:37 pm

It comes across as unprofessional when you ‘sic’ incompletely.

I decided to rent a car and went by myself to the other side of the Island where it is located one of the best hotels. It’s name is DPNY Hotel and I find it quite interesting. I had lunch there in a restaurant on the beach with great seaview. I sat under a palm and ate a mixed green salad with grilled abacaxi (pineapple) and honey. in the afternoon I sunbathe and read on the beach. I ve started here “The age of turbulence” from Alan Greenspan which I highly recomend (sic) you. At five I left back to the small town had a coffee with pao de queijo (cheese bread which is something tipycal (sic) from Brazl (sic) and it’s delicious) read some magazines, walked around and finally back to meu Pousada that is hotel.

There are so many more grammatical errors than the ones highlighted – what is the act of ‘sic’ing called?

June 23, 2009

Pronunciation Guide

Filed under: Humour,Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 9:51 am

It is difficult to go where CNN has never gone before! Here is a pronunciation guide … CNN is spelt out. 😉


April 8, 2008

A few anecdotes …

Filed under: Humour,Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 11:36 pm

1) While travelling the other day, the topic of conversation veered from mammals feeding their young to egg-laying animals to humans consuming eggs …

Mom: Some people have omelettes for breakfast.
Kiddo: I know I know! They have cheerios in them, don’t they?

Mom and Dad: What??!!
Kiddo: Well, you string the cheerios and …

OK, What’s The Good Word?

2) A short time later, after being bored at being quizzed, the kiddo goes: I am tired of questions.
Mom says: Let’s reverse the situation and you ask me questions.
Kiddo: How many quarts in a gallon?
Mom and Dad (aka true-believers-of-the-good-old-SI-system-in-spite-of-a-combined-three-decades-in-this-land-of-the-FPS-system):
Kiddo: OK then, how many litters in one thousand gallons?
Mom (Counts fast, anxious to beat out Dad): o-n-e-t-h-o-u…
Dad (Does his best imitation of ROTFL while driving), while mentally thinking “what a language! Litters, letters, litres and liters!!”

3) After the entire family has (unwittingly or witlessly, whichever you think fits the situation) taken a bath in the Kali river rapids boat ride (Magic Kingdom), Dad stands over stroller as rest of the family is in the restroom doing as best they can to dry themselves off without change of clothes. At that moment (aka ऐन वक्त पर), another couple walks towards the restroom as drenched as the First Family (of this Blog). Now, among the park visitors, most of whom were prescient enough to have got, brought or bought ponchos, this couple stood out like a pair of sore thumbs.

Dad: Looks like we were in the same boat.
Sore thumbs: No, I don’t recall seeing you in our boat!!
Dad (looks away; unfortunately, ROTFLing is not an option in the murky waters)

February 15, 2008

Vote please!

Filed under: Our Languages — Porcupyn @ 1:28 pm

View and vote!

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