04 May 2009

Color = colour?

The Philippines is largely an English-speaking nation. English is the medium of instruction in the vast majority of schools (shall I say, all?), and with the majority also able to speak Filipino (previously called Tagalog) plus a third, local dialect, I'd say we are pretty much able in terms of linguistics. So moving to an English-speaking country will be no hassle at all! Right?

Well... that's a yes and a no. Yes because our accent is generally understandable. Of the many people I have talked to, I have only encountered two so far who have asked me to repeat what I have just said more than once in a conversation. We can carry on a pretty decent discussion with them. There have also been a couple who correctly identified me as Filipino based on my accent (and I didn't realize we have a unique accent!) because they have Filipino friends.

The No part is due to what I call "localized English". In the writing aspect, we have to learn how to spell some words the British way. I learned about this because writing is a huge part of my work and one time, I was corrected on 'enrollment' which is now 'enrolment'. Sometimes it's just a case of a letter less, or a letter more ('Color' is now 'colour'), but it can also get tricky ('maneuver' is now 'manoeuvre'). But we can generally get away with our American English spelling because, phonetics-wise, the sound is the same. So if they read our correspondence, they will understand what the word is, only spelled differently. It will help a lot of course if we learn how to spell words as they do. When in Rome? :-)

And then, there are words that completely replace terms we are familiar with. A 'baby carriage', for example, is a 'pram', 'gasoline' is 'petrol', 'restroom' is 'loo' or 'water closet (WC)'.

That said, we can pretty much get along rather well with the Kiwis. Here in Wellington where cultural diversity is rich, many terms we use (such as bathroom or restroom) is generally recognized.

To research about this topic on the web, simply Google "American English vs British English" and this will lead you to a number of resources. Here are some to get you started:
Susan Jones' Common Words
English Club's English and American English Spelling

On my next post: resources to listen and learn about the Kiwi accent


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