It is a trait I was born with, definitely passed on to me genetically. It just happens so organically that I sometimes don’t even realise I am doing it. Hubby dear, however, catches it, if he is there of course, almost instantly and tells me am doing it again. That doesn’t guarantee that I would stop though, most of the times it is out of my control.
I start talking in the accent of the person I am talking to. Language of course is mine, but accent shifts to that of the other person. Now you know what the tagline on my home page means, eh ‘I am to you what you are to me’. My tone, of course, follows my accent.
An Indian or anyone who has been to India would know that there are more than 120 major and about 1600 regional languages spoken in the land of diversity. The language, or accent, at least the tone differs every 2 blocks or so. My dad mostly worked in the state of Haryana in India, but he met and worked with people from all over India – Bihar, Andhra, Kannada, you name it! And I always used to wonder how does he do it. He used to talk to them in English or Hindi but in a completely different accent to how he would speak to us. I found it very inspiring. He mentioned that people feel comfortable talking to him as speaking to them in a familiar accent soothes them and makes them feel at home.
I had little exposure at practicing because all my class friends were mostly locals. I dont know about my Hindi or English accents back then, but my grasp of my mother tounge (Punjabi) was and remains, utterly horrible! My cousins would always beg me to stop trying, should I even dare to talk to them in Punjabi, as I never caught the accent or even the tone right.
I got my break when I moved to Cyprus with hubby darling. He had never known of my hidden talent. We both worked for the same organisation there and had a multi cultural team with people from Romania, Ukraine, Israel and of course Indians and Cypriots. My team members loved me and until then I didn’t know I had already started exploiting my talent. But once, hubby overheard me talking to a Romanian colleague and all hell broke loose. ‘Why are you making fun of the poor girl?‘ He lashed out. ‘When did I do that and How?‘. I was told off. Eventually, he did realise that I don’t mean harm and definitely do not mean to insult, and I really have no way to turn off this weird capability of mine.
I nailed them all. If I ever have any chance in the show-bizz, this is definitely going in my resume – Indian, American, Romanian, Greek and most definitely Isreali – Its the perfect pothuct goup, as in the product group!! Beautiful accents all!!
Work took me to Malaysia and I nailed the local accent there as well. Hubby dear hated it!! Irritated him to the core!! Mission accomplished!
But I was completely and literally lost for words when we had an Australian join our senior management in KL. What embarassment it caused me when, forget about copying his accent, I could barely understand a word of his question during a governance meeting. I made sure, after that incident, that I never run into him again. Stuck to the written word for communication through the rest of my tenure there. I was just not ready and no where close to recovering from this gap in my oh so well accomplished talent.
Bless dear husband, for finding a job in the land down under shortly there after. I was scared , how was I supposed to survive, communicate with locals, find a job here when I struggled to make sense of each syllable popping out of their mouth. First few days were the worst, I could never make eye contact while talking, I kept looking at their lips, they may have excused me for while, perhaps thinking I am partly deaf. But it got to me, I had to make it work. I started watching the local TV, observing/over hearing conversations at cafes, basically redeployed all techniques that I used, to learn English in the first place, as I gradually unlearnt my accent and incorporated Aussie toungue twister lingo. Voila! Few months later, hubby dear started getting irritated again and I knew I got it!! Fair dinkum mate!!