Jaza's World Trip

Language erosion

As I approach the end of my massive world trip — I now have exactly one week to go, before I touch down back in Sydney — I can't help but think about what it's going to be like returning home. And one thing that keeps worrying me, is that after a year of travelling, my English language skills have become somewhat eroded! I never expected I'd ever be saying this: but I'm really concerned that my spoken English has deteriorated during my travels. I believe that it's been caused by a combination of my intensive Spanish study; of the significant amount of time that I've spent in non-English-speaking countries; and more than anything, of the amount of conversing that I've done, in English, with non-native English speakers.

I don't feel that my written English has been so adversely affected — and for that, I probably have this blogging effort largely to thank. But as for my spoken English: when I converse, I strongly suspect that I'm (unconsciously) talking more like a non-native speaker than ever before — that is, using fewer and less complex tenses, limiting myself to a smaller and less sophisticated vocabulary, and avoiding ambiguous sayings and proverbs whenever possible. I can hear myself talking dumb, and it pains me to notice it.

Of even more concern to me than the language erosion, though, is another problem that's even closer to my heart: accent erosion. 'O Aussie accent, whither hast thou gone? I can't really hear it myself; and to tell the truth, I've never had a particularly strong Aussie inflexion. But the tell-tale signs of accent loss are present: Brits are asking me "are you American?"; Yanks are asking me "Are you British?" (not such a big deal — they can never tell, anyway); and even other Aussies are asking me "so where ya from originally?". I'm very proud of my extensive accent-mimicking abilities; but I've also always been proud to have had one "true blue" accent, and to have heretofore always preserved it in the face of meltdown. But it seems that my native Aussie drawl has failed to stand strong against the tyranny of distance. Lucky I still have my passport (well, an emergency one, at least): otherwise, they might not believe me a local at all, when I finally get back!