Sunday, 9 April 2006

Englishness

I have started reading a book called Watching the English by Kate Fox. Ant gave it to me as a wedding gift and April said that she thought it was fantastic. Ms Fox seeks to observe and report on the customs and eccentricities of the English. I am in an enviable position as an immigrant she says, since as Ms Fox puts it, minority individuals "quite consciously, deliberately, cleverly, and even mockingly pick and choose among the behaviours and customs of their host culture." It's a really interesting book that exposes conversation codes and behaviour codes of the English.

In the book, Ms Fox argues that outsiders coming to live in England are involved in English culture in three ways: influence, adaption, and adoption. Since moving here my adoption of Englishness has been confined to vocabulary. I talk of taking out the rubbish, putting things in the boot of the car, using aluminium foil to wrap food, eating tea (the main evening meal) and finishing with pudding. But this week I made a conscious effort to change my pronunciation of the word "half." I was reading a mental maths practice test for a year seven class on Thursday and when I got to the question, "Write down half of 28," they all asked what I meant. I repeated the question, but this time with the English pronunciation, and they had no trouble answering the question.

When I first moved here, Jayme told me that she had found it essential to change her accent somewhat. I can understand that now since I receive a lot of mocking and imitation from students because of my accent. (And their teasing always sounds so American! Grrr.) So I think that maybe she was right. I will have to change my pronunciation a bit more over time. She said she didn't find this particularly hard to do. So far the only words I have changed are half and snooker (the latter used to receive unbearable taunting from Ant whenever I said it). I thought that having an English husband would help, but unfortunately this seems to be not the case. It will have to be a conscious effort.

1 comment:

Jayme said...

Donald makes fun of the way I say "snooker" too, however, as the need to use the word in the classroom has not yet arisen, I refuse to change my pronunciation of it! I also relate to the unsympathetic other half - Donald still mocks my Canadian accent after I've been chatting to "home" but it sometimes proves quite amusing - he does the most hilarious impression of my father!