Monday, November 10, 2008

Crazy mixed-up pup

I've always had trouble with "w" words " and "v" words said in succession. Give me tongue twisters like “red lorry blue lorry” and I can say it over and over without much hassle… but ask me to say “white van” and if I don’t pause a miniscule bit between the two words, I end up saying “white wan” or “vite van”. It always makes me laugh, but I also find it annoying.

I tend to pick up accents fairly easily, usually without quite realising it - until a kind friend or cousin accuses me of “having an accent” and then I "hear" myself. As most other Indians educated in India, I didn’t – couldn’t - differentiate between the “w” and “v” sounds. This was more than useful when I was learning German, because I didn’t have any trouble with the pronunciation of German “w”s as “v”s – which is correct.

Then I moved to Singapore, and associating with British and American nationals at work made me realise that there was a difference between the two sounds – and eventually I acquired the ability to differentiate between, and pronounce the sounds right, partly from deliberate effort. (Have I mentioned that I’m anal about pronunciation?). Anyway, after coming to the UK, speaking to the British in British English for the last 8 years, and to a lot of elderly, finicky clients on the phone for the last 3, that ability has become second nature, almost.

That said, of course, because I now say “w”s the English way, my German pronunciation has taken a turn for the worse… and today, to my dismay, I fumbled over a Punjabi name at work – a Mr Dhaliwal had called – and I ended up saying his name as “Dhaliwall” rather than “Dhalival”. After I had transferred him over to my colleague, I tried saying his name the way it should be, and to even more dismay, I found that I had to actually pause between the two syllables “Dhali-val” to get it right. (Yes, I do feel embarrassed about this!) I can see why authentic Brits find it so difficult to say Indian names correctly, handicapped as they are by their pronunciation.

At least I can still say “Sharma” or “Swarna” with the “r” sounded loud and clear, instead of “Shaama” or “Swaana”. That is a relief.


umm oviya said...

you know even if you don't realise the diff 'w' and 'v', it sounds so different and wrong when spoken by some, you know it's not quite right. i don't know... does what i say make sense? i have to thank a very irritating and annoying sister for pointing out that difference to me early on. after being ribbed to death for saying is-land (i was 8!) and 'sour' throat.

Anonymous said...

haha, am corrected all the time by my kids. Such joy I tell you! :)

btw, just in case u were looking, I've shifted my fables to

a tad presumptuous, but hey, it's you rt? I can be like that rt? :)

Kamini said...

My younger kid used to replace all his v's with w's (driwer for driver, elewator for elevator) until merciless teasing by his older sister forced him to try to correct himself.
Today, both my kids laugh at me - what is the world coming too, no respect for parents these days!
So I laugh right back at them - give them some real tongue twisters of Tamil words to pronounce (they have grown up in the US) and stand back and guffaw. Of course, they think that Tamil pronunciation of English words is funnier than American pronunciation of Tamil words, but I beg to differ.

??! said...

Heh. Now say "dabbawallah".

mg said...

My dad claims that "w" is closer to the Sanskrit sound-that there is no hard "v" sound. My parents thus spelled my sister's name with a w, though it is normally spelled with a v in India.

Kaio said...

Hi Shyam,
Nice blog!
Have a sextastic week!
Cheers from London

Inba's Corner said...

vee are like that wonly. saari! ;)