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Sep 15

Written by: Jennifer Kumar, Cultural Adjustment Coach
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Authentic Journey of Sanjay and Julie: The Languages of Love (Part 2 of 3) 

Sanjay Krishnan and Julie Williams-Krishnan

8 September 2010

(5) Sanjay, being from Chennai your native language is Tamil, though you grew up speaking both Tamil and English. What has been your experience in maintaining familiarity with Tamil language living in U.S. and U.K. and not getting to speak it regularly at home? What is your advice to other cross cultural couples who talk in a common language but try to maintain connection to another native language?
The Krishnan Family, Jan 07
I have not been great at maintaining Tamil conversations when outside India. Most of my friends in London were non-Tamil speakers. However I did (and continue) to speak to my family in Chennai a few times each week. Although I expected to speak more Tamil in Boston where I have a few more Tamilian friends, this has not been the case. We tend to speak in English – and not just for Julie’s sake. I’ve never been one to seek out people because they speak the same language or eat the same food, etc. Julie took some Tamil lessons in London but it hasn’t resulted in conversations in Tamil. Once we move to India, we will both speak more Tamil.

My advice would be to try to speak your own language when you can but don’t fret about it if you speak less often than you’d like. 

(6) Julie, now you have been exposed to American English, U.K. English and Indian English. What aspects of each of these ‘Englishes’ are comfortable to you and which cause you confusion?
I am one confused bunny! People in England thought that I sounded Canadian because my American accent was tempered, my mother thought I sounded British when I came home for a visit. When I go to India, I have to listen to understand a very specific English pronunciation – Sanjay’s uncle even asked me to speak with a more British accent so he could understand me! Now I am back in the US, and I am in Boston, where there is a very particular accent and I find my accent doesn’t know what to do!!! 

(6a) Have you mixed them together?
And as far as words and phrases and spellings, I never know if something is British or American, two "lls" or one (traveler/traveller) and I have to ask if certain phrases are English or American. I also miss that extra "u" in humour and colour! I used the phrase "I don’t want to throw a spanner in the works" the other day, only to be asked what was a "spanner" – I guess that one is a British phrase!

(6b) What aspects of your American English and Culture were challenged abroad? Which aspects of each language of culture suit your personality best?
The English language is such a hodge-podge in my brain I am not sure how to answer this. It would be easier to answer this question if there were two completely separate language like Chinese and English – I think and talk in both Englishes at the moment – I have to filter out words like ‘queue’ and ‘loo’ until the right word comes along – line and restroom… so, the challenge is now for me to be American again, to realize that realize ends in "ize" not "ise" as I have just typed it. One thing that I liked about the Brits is that they generally talked as if they lived on a small island – polite, not wanting words to carry outside their conversations, lips kept close together. Being back in the US, where the land is large, I have overheard some humdinger conversations, and I really wish I didn’t know certain details of that stranger wearing the red-striped shirt. Americans don’t worry about the size of their voice, and it is okay -- in fact, it can be a show of territory and temperament -- to talk LOUDLY!

End Part 2 of 3. Thank you for sharing, Sanjay and Julie.

(Read Part 1 -Two People Living Their Best Life Possible Above and Beyond Culture and Appearances)

Keep Tuned in for Part 3. Thanks for Reading.


The previous interview in this series: The Authentic Journey of Lisa (An American in India)
Part 1 of 3: From U.S. to India - The Struggles of Identifying with India While Growing up in America

Part 2 of 3: India it is!

Part 3 of 3: Fighting Stereotypes and Embracing Identity


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About Jennifer Kumar creator of this interview series. Jennifer is a cross-cultural coach helping people figure out how to feel comfortable in their new surroundings by getting to know you and helping you create long-lasting solutions that will help you weather life changes, cultural change, and more!

Do you relate to any of these expat stories? Maybe you're an international student, expat wife, in a cross-cultural relationship, considering an interfaith marriage, a 'third culture kid' (TCK), or someone finding it challenging to adjust to a new culture, lifestyle or country. Would you like some help to sort all that out in a confidential environment? I am a cross-cultural coach and mentor, contact me for details or see more details about what I do here.


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