Exotic Accents

  •  
  • 82
  • 8
  • 3
  • English 
Oct 8, 2017 02:31
A few days ago, a coworker who was afraid that his English was not good enough requested me to help him book a hotel in Bangkok, where he was going to vacation. I booked the hotel on Booking.com and called the reception desk to see if the booking had been confirmed. There had been a recording before I got through to an operator. What I heard first was someone speaking in Thai, followed by another person speaking English with a Thai accent. Despite having the accent, the speaker spoke clearly so I could understand what she was saying.

This reminded me of how I felt when I respectively called a Chinese airline company and an American airline company. There were also recordings before getting through to operators. When I was calling Air China, there was a Mandarin recording first. After that came an English version, in which the speaker spoke fluently, but her accent was neither British nor American. A few days later, I called American Airlines in Beijing. There was also a Mandarin recording in the first place. However, the speaker’s Mandarin accent sounded a bit exotic to me, at least not at an announcer’s level that I’d expect from many other call centers in China. After Mandarin, there came an English version. The speaker spoke extremely rapid-fire English. Her accent was very American.

Earlier this year, I went to visit a friend of mine who studied in LA. While she and I were dining at a restaurant, there were several American girls eating at a table beside ours. They spoke extremely fast. Their accent sounded the same to me as what I’d heard in Hollywood movies. My friend said with a heavy sigh, “It’s near-impossible to copy their accent.” I laughed out loud because I could relate to this. From my personal experience, however well a foreigner spoke Mandarin, I could always sense the exoticism in his/her accents.
几天前,我一个同事准备去曼谷度假,但他的英语又不太好,所以请求我帮他订曼谷的一家酒店。我在Booking上帮他订好酒店后,然后打了一个电话给酒店确认是否已订妥。在人工呼叫前,有一段录音,首先是一段泰语,然后是一段泰国味的英语。尽管有口音,但是那人说得很清楚,所以我能听懂。

这让我想起了我分别打电话给中国的航空公司和美国的航空公司的经历。在接入人工呼叫前,也有录音。当我打电话给国航时,首先是一段普通话录音,接着是一段英文录音,虽然读得很流利,但既不是英式口音也不是美式口音。几天后,我打电话给美国航空北京办事处,首先也是一段普通话录音。但是,普通话录音听起来有点怪,至少不是像很多其他中国热线那样的播音员水准。普通话之后,是一段英文录音。英文录音的语速超级无敌快,发音非常美式。

今年早些时候,我去洛杉矶看一个朋友。我和她在一个餐馆吃饭的时候,旁边一桌是几个美国女生。她们说话语速超级快,口音和好莱坞电影里的一样。我朋友叹了一口气说,“她们口音真的学不来。” 我哈哈大笑了起来,这个我懂。就像我听外国人说中文一样,即便说得再溜,总能听出一点洋味来。