So there is this hilarious line from The Emperor’s New Groove we always quote. The villainous Yzma turns into a cat and suddenly her voice goes into chipmunk mode.
“Is THAT my voice?” she exclaims, confused. “Is that MY voice?”
I am increasingly feeling like this little feline.
What’s with that accent?
Sometimes I hear myself and am surprised by my own speech. Now this is normal when, for example, you hear yourself on the phone or on a recording. What I mean is that lately I say things like “toe-may-toe” and “vacation” and want to shoot myself. I roll my “r”s and stretch out my “yeah”s (yiahhh) and can hardly believe my own ears.
Not to say that I ever had a very broad Australian accent (thanks, inner south Canberra), but the more time I spend overseas the more my accent gets mangled.
In Ecuador, it was partly intentional – the Australian accent is difficult for those learning English because we don’t pronounce our “r”s. Here in Bolivia, many of my best friends are from the US and hanging out with them means I start speaking like them.
My accent in Spanish is a hybrid one, too. Most people can’t place it; I’ve been told it sounds anything from generally Andean, to pretty lojano (from Loja province), to Mexican (I’ve never been to Mexico and don’t know many Mexicans). Usually I hear it’s very neutral and take that as a compliment.
In reality, I started off with a number of Spanish-isms, adopted much of the Ecuadorian – and specifically lojano – tones, and as much as I’ve been resisting in, some mannerisms from La Paz are finding their way into my speech.
Just my voice?
I think it’s reflective of a broader blending that is happening in me and my identity.
The more time I spend away from my country, the more I love and appreciate it – but the more I feel it is less and less my country. All in all, I think I kinda like being this Asian Australian thing that speaks Spanish.
I love Australia and when I’m away I often think fondly of it – sometimes to the point of missing not only the people I care about, but Australia itself; specific things about it as well as Australia more abstractly.
I head back in September and I’m looking forward to it. But I don’t think I’ll stay long. It’s not the travel bug everyone assumes I have. I still feel I can do more overseas and that in some sense I am a better version of myself in this other context.
Being the Foreigner, the Expat, is also a good reality check. After all, Australia is my home – but it’s not my permanent, eternal home.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV)