Awkwardness about English

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Jun 18, 2011 20:58 pronunciation
Many Japanese peoples claim that speaking in English to native speakers of English is a lot easier than speaking English in front of other Japanese people. They feel more embarrassed when their mistakes are spotted by their Japanese fellows than by native speakers of English.

That's true. And it may be something to do with Japanese mindset, with which people always care about other people's eyes and ears.

Actually, I'm OK when I'm speaking with English blokes. I don't really care how many mistakes I've made. But now, I have other issues.

One is accent. It seems that my listening and speaking have been tuned to a narrow range of accents spoken by people in South England in the middle class in some age groups. Recently, an American guy and an Australian guy asked me independently, "How long have you been in the UK?" I said' "Just one and a half years." Then, they said, "I asked you because I can hear British accent from you."

English with an accent which I'm not familiar with is difficult to understand, of course. Apart from that, my speaking tend to be severely affected by the accent spoken by others.

As long as I'm speaking to English blokes, I can be English version of myself with some confidence. However, when I speak to somebody with totally different accent, I can't keep my English in tempo. I can't keep my rhythm. I'm confused.

Similar thing happens in Japanese as well. My mother tongue is Kansai dialect of Japanese. But somehow I can speak rather decent Tokyo dialect as well despite the fact that I'm not a great fan of Tokyo culture. I automatically switch the two dialects depending on a person whom I'm talking to.

As for English accents, if he/she is a native speaker of English, like American, Australian or Canadian, it's OK. I think I can get used to it. It's just question of time.

But how about English with strong French or Spanish accent? Because I've made enormous effort to improve my English, and because I know European languages are similar to each other in many ways, every time I see Europeans who speak English with strong accent of their mother tongue, I often think, "Oh, you're lazy! If you'd practised harder, I could be more comfortable now. "

On the other hand, I'm OK to speak English in front of Japanese people. I know the difficulty in learning English for Japanese people, so I can appreciate their English skills. Nevertheless, listening their katakana accent English is not very comfortable. I often think, "Oh, that pronunciation wouldn't work, man."

Moreover, because I've got British accent to some extent, it may be really hard for Japanese people to understand what I speak. My wife cannot understand my English.

In short, there's little occasion for me to feel comfortable about English conversation. Oh, no... :D
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