Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Accent on Jada

I recall participating in a linguistic study during my senior year at
Penn. For six bucks for every six-minute call, I could call into a
number and carry on a conversation on any subject I wanted with
another volunteer who was doing the same thing. The goal was to get
samples of accents from various people who grew up in different parts
of the world. So I guess from me they learned what English sounds
like coming from someone for whom Taiwanese was his first language,
then grew up in California using surfer-speak, and then went to an Ivy
League school in Philadelphia.

I think about that experience now, because I wonder what they'll make
of Jada if they ask her to participate. She grew up hearing
exclusively Mandarin; has since then heard mostly English (with some
Taiwanese and Mandarin sprinkled in) from her parents, one from Cali
and one from Jersey; and now goes to school with almost exclusively
kids and teachers from the inner city. (The next time you hear her
say, "Oh my goodness," you'll know from which part of her world she
got that phrase and intonation.) And all of these influences upon a
cutesy type of voice that one of her friends at church calls "a
princess voice." You can see why we can't wait for her to get up to
speed on her talking; regardless of what she's saying, how she's
saying it is just so interesting.

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