Sometimes I feel a little like My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle living in Australia. "The rain in Brisbane falls mainly on the plain" (if you can, try to imagine me saying that with kind of an Australian accent). I often wonder what we sound like to them. Do we sound cool or just annoying?
I'm thankful though that we moved somewhere where English is the official language. It's not that I don't like learning new languages, it's just that moving is hard enough without having people not understand you. And living in an English-speaking country means that I haven't been reduced to using charades or pantomimes to get my point across - not like my brother Robb who's been working in Jakarta. What I would have given to have seen him act out his dire need for Pepto-Bismal at the local Indonesian pharmacy! But then again, I probably would have needed to buy some "Depends" for myself from laughing so hard!
But even in Australian there are times when we have trouble understanding their accent, and vice versa.
At the beginning of school Jack was convinced that some of the kids in his class thought he was annoying. He was adamant that their nickname for him - "noy boy" - was short for "annoying boy". As he tearfully related the story to me, I couldn't help but worry whether he was really having a hard time fitting in. But, after saying the words over a few times in my head "noy boy, noy boy," I started to laugh. I reassured Jack that no - the kids did not think he was annoying - they were just calling him "new boy!"
Caitlyn has had her own troubles understanding the new accent. Her teacher even suggested we have her hearing tested because Caitlyn was not always responding to instructions or to her name. Turns out her hearing is perfect, she just didn't recognize that "Kitlain" was her!
Last week I went for coffee with a friend. When I went to pay, the girl told me my total was $22. Secretly wishing for a Tim Horton's, I paid the money and waited for my change. The waitress handed me my money and a whole date loaf. I looked at her funny and told her that I had not, in fact, ordered a date loaf. She was certain that I had. So, I went through my order:
- a jam donut - she nodded,
- an almond croissant - she nodded,
- a flat white (like a latte) - again, she nodded, and
- a diet coke - she grimaced.
Apparently a diet coke, with a Canadian accent, sounds a lot like date loaf - who knew? At least I got some change back!
Jack is already starting to take on a bit of an accent. He was excited the other day when he was finally able to say some of his friends' names "properly". Oliver has now become "Olivah" and Robbie has turned into "Rubbie". He also informed his Uncle "Rub" that Rice Bubbles are actually Rice Krispies, just said with an Australian accent!
I don't know if in the end we'll all pick up their accent but in some ways we're part way there - Queenslanders are also known for finishing their sentences off with "eh!"