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Head+Desk

Catching up on my correspondences and some of the writing work. I got a nibble from a Japanese translation company I applied to last week. For the curious, my translation pairs are Malay or Indonesian to English and English or Indonesian to Malay. It's strange, but apart from my current Business English work, the only other company that has shown interest in me has also been Japanese. Maybe, it's a sign? Of course, applying for translation work comes with the part where I need to prove I am bilingual. Most of my resumes hinge on the idea I've had 17 years of bilingual education in English and Malay, including postgraduate study. But I can see how it's bizarre for me to cite my two languages as English and Malay, since neither one of my parents are from the traditional Caucasian backgrounds. Going by genetics, it would be more plausible for me to tell people I'm bi/tri/quadlingual in Malay and a few Chinese dialects. That'd be the day though. My Chinese, in any of the dialects I know, is just terrible. Add to that, I haven't been raised in any of the traditionally English-speaking countries. My entire English knowledge is based on books and the fact English is spoken in my home. Would you know I wasn't a native English speaker if I told you? Would you know I wasn't a native English speaker if you spoke to me? It's times like this that make me wonder.

As if that weren't bad enough, my accent would hit me on the head for a job that required me to speak. It's fine if I needed to merely switch between American and British English in writing (case in point, I tend to prefer British spellings). On the other hand, ask a Malaysian what I sound like and they would tell you I sound American. Ask a European what I sound like and I sound American. Ask an American what I sound like, and you get all kinds of Continental combinations. I guess the general consensus is that I speak American. It's one of my long-standing angsts, yes. Because I spent my childhood fending off accusations that my accent was fake, or put on, or just being pointed out for sounding different, it still bothers me a lot. And here's my other problem: given a choice of native languages, I'm more native in English than I am in Malay. Now, how do I go around proving that?

Just for fun, the translation company's automated filing system has berated me for citing two target languages because very few people out there are truly bilingual. I'll need to post them a note.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
scanner_darkly
May. 9th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
Well, I could be totally wrong, but I'm not sure if translation companies care what accent you have. It still was fun to read, and thanks for the email yesterday. :)
vampyrichamster
May. 9th, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
Ah, they don't care, especially not for telecommuting written work. :)
But back when I was applying for teaching jobs, it did matter what sort of English I spoke. That I didn't come from a naturally English-speaking country didn't help. For written work, I just match my English to whatever's required.

Thanks for writing back! I sent you an email last week too, about an hour after you mailed me? I always wondered if you got that letter.
countlibras
May. 9th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
If you speak English without any noticeable accents, I wouldn't be surprised if you were pegged as American. Americans would get confused because Americans tend to listen for all of the American accents - Boston, New York, Southern, etc. Of course, there are Americans who speak without accents too. I generally speak without an accent, unless I'm talking too fast and then I've got a slight Boston accent.

Now, I'm curious to hear you say something. :)

(Or even better, I'd like to hear you attempt something in a Chinese dialect. Just out of curiosity. Like I've mentioned before, my Canonese is pretty bad. haha!)
vampyrichamster
May. 10th, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
This'll be interesting. I spent a year in New Orleans, and then some time in Houston as a kid. But I wouldn't dare claim I picked up any Southern accents along the way. ;)

When I'm excited, especially if I'm about to debate something, I know my accent goes dreadfully English though, and that sounds weird even to me.

I need to fix my sound card. My mike hasn't worked in a while, which is why I haven't done any voice posts. And I should make it work! It'll be interesting to see what people think of my terrible everythings. :)
countlibras
May. 10th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Now, I'm much too curious to hear what you sound like. :)
vampyrichamster
May. 11th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
Reeeeeeeaaaaally? You reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaally want to hear me? ;)
romantisttaste
May. 10th, 2006 06:30 am (UTC)
I esteem everyone having a good English (or American, whatever) accent, since I know I won't be able to get any (=_=)
I mean, I live in a non-bilingual country so chances to speak English are the lowest. I watch American TV shows (well, just wrestling ones XP) and it helps. But surely it's not enough...
vampyrichamster
May. 10th, 2006 07:12 am (UTC)
Thanks. You're making me blush. :)
I don't think it really matters what accents get spoken, in spite of what I've said up there. If you speak English clearly, so that most people can understand you, anything you bring in from your native language makes that English you speak your own.

For example, I think you probably speak English much better than you're giving yourself credit for. Your written English is very good! English with an Italian accent, if this is what you sound like naturally, is much better than English with an American or British accent. (I would consider it cute.) :)
romantisttaste
May. 10th, 2006 08:50 am (UTC)
Now you're making me blush (^^)

I think that people usually associate Italian accent with Southern Italian accent. But I live in Northern Italy and even in Italian language accents are so different from region to region. In the end, I don't know what sort of accent I have when speaking English XD
But you're right. It's ok as long as people understand (^^)
vampyrichamster
May. 11th, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)
*nods* (^^)

I'm curious to hear what you sound like now. I still think it'll be cute!
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