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Jan 10

Written by: Jennifer Kumar, LMSW, Cultural Adjustment Coach/Mentor
Sunday, January 10, 2010

I find the learning of language fascinating, and more so because it has so much to do with cultural conditioning. When I lived in India, I did learn the local language where I lived: Tamil. I could read, write and speak some of the language. My classmates who were my field work partners to slums could follow my attempts at Tamil, but the residents of slums and villages could not because of the ways I pronounced some letters and the speed and rhythm I voiced the words. It is not fault of theirs because I was most likely the first foreigner they heard speaking their language. But since I came with a class mate, after I said it- the local person would look utterly confused, make a face (I could understand the non-verbal communication) and then look to my classmate for a translation- as they thought I was not trying to speak in Tamil! So, on it went like this. I completely understand the frustrations and challenges one can face when learning a new language. Learning it in one's country among other learners of your language background, then being thrown into the ethnic background is totally different. I appreciate all people who can overcome this transition as it is most difficult and really tests our own patience, understanding of other cultures and ability to adapt to new ways of expressing ourselves in new environments.


Last month, I posted a video on how to pronounce "L" sounds - here is a nice video by popenoemethod on how to reduce Japanese accent in pronouncing L the American English Way!

In addition to the articulation of particular sounds, the rhythm in which we talk can affect other's understanding of what we are trying to communicate. Some languages have more rhythm (a type of accent, possibly) than others. For instance, when I lived in India, I found Malayalam to be more of a 'sing-song' language than Tamil because the way in which my Malayalee classmates spoke Malayalam was very rhythmic to the point of sounding like singing a song (in comparison to how I was used to hearing English spoken, for instance). For Japanese, I think, the tone doesn't change much throughout the sentence and also in particular words like in this video. In addition to more stress, rhythm and accent in American English speech, us Americans are probably on the whole more non-verbally expressive in our delivery of everyday face-to-face verbal interactions than Japanese. That is not really touched up on in this video, but my extra 'two cents.' This video is also courtesy popenoemethod.

 



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