When Chinese students learn English, they learn how to speak with perfect English accents, or standard American accents. Those who actually end up in England/America are sure to be in for a surprise to learn that most English people/Americans don’t speak that way.
The New York Times has a piece on its City Room blog about Chinese students who are struggling to understand the Brooklyn accent, speaking specifically to Chinese workers on Coney Island selling hot dogs:
“In university in Beijing, I learned British English, but the people here in Brooklyn speak very differently,” said Li Xiaoshu , 23, an English-language major back home and one of roughly 20 college students from China participating in a work-abroad program through August at Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand next to the Coney Island Boardwalk.
“They do not pronounce the R’s at the end of the word,” Ms. Li observed as she served up hot dogs on Saturday to a throng of hungry customers, many of whom placed their orders in Kings County dialect.
A young man leaned in and said something that to fresh ears may have sounded like ”Yugahtsawltnpeppa?”
Ms. Li paused momentarily but then brightened and said, “Ah, salt,” and handed over several packets of salt and pepper, and continued taking orders and serving hot dogs, fries, corn and soda.
The workers also noticed the Brooklynites fuse words together and say “eeeey” a lot.
We suggest any number of solutions for English schools here to prepare their wards for King’s County: Bugs Bunny cartoons, Al Pacino movies (Attica!!!), “Mickey Blue Eyes” (fugghedaboudit), Barbara Streisand anything (Fah Pete’zake!), and maybe some episodes of “The Nanny” to teach them about Queens as well.
We guarantee the next generation of Chinese kids won’t blink an eye when they’re told to go to “Brahdwoi and Toity Toid.”
By Robert O’Connor