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English As A....

Thanks all for taking the time to share your views on the pronunciation of "February," which have already formed a valuable reference material for me. That's cool. While I have to take it as sober truth that "feb-yoo-ary" has looong entered the mainstream, I'm also encouraged to keep pronouncing the first "r" of the word.

Well, between you and me, "February" is one of such words that I always feel reluctant to pronounce at all, simply because it's hard to say it smoothly with the "r" in mind. Hah hah hah.... But that won't make me pronounce it as "feb-yoo-ary," because I always have the "r" in mind. It can't be helped. R-chan is always there. How easy things would be if I had been born in, say, May or June. I was born in May...boy, that's much easier to say!

Aside from the fact that February is my birth month and so I make much of every letter of the word, the letter "r" means a lot to the Japanese as well. Why? Because we are supposed to speak EngRish!

Well, seriously, there are many different kinds of English used in the world. The way people speak English is different from country to country. Even within an English-speaking country, there are differences in different regions. Even within a region, there are differences among the people. And there are a whole lot of people in the world who use English as a second language or a foreign one. It's as if there is no such thing as Standard English.

What I always keep in mind is to let my students learn the basics firmly so that they will be able to cope with differences in the future. I wish the day will come when "Japanese English" doesn't sound like a joke any more. Hmm...is it possible?

The first Sunday post in a loooooong while. ;)


Sometimes my different blogging faces overlap. Today, via my gardening blog, I came across this post about "talking funny" (various English accents) from Bill Hopkins who gardens up around Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas, USA). I think y'all will enjoy it.


(By the way, Kiyo, they promised the first cold weather of winter this week here--but it was "mushi-atsui". It's 10:30PM and currently 23C. The high today was 27C. I don't really care if it's hot or cold; I just wish it would rain!)

Oh, it's a nice read! I think you once wrote about the expression "I'm fixing to...." ;)

Hey, how can it be "winter" with the temperature 27C! It's been raining hard here, and very cold. Why don't we exchange the temp and rain?

You remembered! Yeah, I did write about "fixing to" some time back. It's Texan for "I'm just about to".

The weather! In preparation for this big cold front, I chopped and brought in firewood, unpacked the winter clothes and packed up the summer clothes. Now the air conditioner keeps coming on and I have to keep raising the thermostat to turn it off. (I'm not running the air conditioner in November, no matter how hot it is.)

Winter in Texas depends on the wind. We (at the south end of the Great Plains) are at the bottom of a funnel. When wind blow down from Canada, we have a few days of clear, cold weather. When the wind drifts up from the Gulf of Mexico, we get warmer, humid weather. Usually we get rain when these two air masses collide. But this year we are ten inches below normal and heading into another drought.

I remember in Japan, that the seasons were much more on schedule. Once it started getting cold, it just got colder and colder and stayed that way until it started getting warm. There wasn't much fluctuation. I didn't like winter in Japan, either, and I lived in Kyushu where it was very mild compared to Hokkaido.

I like listening to the audio archive at the Internation Dialects of English website. They have samples of English speakers from all over the world. After listening to the speakers read the poem they talk about their lives and if English isn't their native language they tell you why they learned English. It's pretty cool to hear different accents and pronunciations of English.


I was reading your entries about "February" with a great deal of interest, because as an English English speaker I find it interesting how American English speakers have corrupted our fair language :D

It's one of those things I have to say out loud to remember how it works in practice. I say "feb-rew-ary" naturally, but the "r" is very soft, and I don't have an intrinsically bad reaction to hearing "feb-yew-ary". I tend to swallow the last "a", too, if I'm not careful, so the word could turn into "feb-yew-ry" without much difficulty.

However it must be said that the British can be very snobby when it comes to rejecting American pronunciation, so I doubt I'd ever say "feb-yew-(a)ry". Must add the disclaimer that my accent is South London English and from the middle classes - English accents are very socially and geographically localised.

Like it or not, Standard English *does* exist. It's the variety of English codified in the written form of the language. Standard English shows a few differences between its various national flavours, but overall these differences are fairly limited. There's a basic international consensus on what the grammar of Standard English is.

You can speak Standard English with various accents, both native and non-native: Texan, New England, Welsh, Irish, South African, Australian, Indian, Philippino, Italian, French or Japanese; as long as you get the grammar right, it's Standard English, no matter how "broad" the accent.

Non-standard varieties have grammars that differ from the standard. Scots English, for instance, is a different dialect from the standard and may be entirely incomprehensible in an international setting. It's not the same thing as Standard English with a Scottish accent, however, and many Scots speak both varieties, with a whole range of gradations in between the two.

There are also standard accents. These are national pronunciations of Standard English that are felt to be more acceptable or "proper" than others. They're not demonstrably "better" than any of the other varieties that exist, but their acceptance is a social reality. In the U.S., the standard accent is known as General American (GA for short), also known as Network English. This is the pronunciation that national broadcasters are expected to use, and it's largely based on Midwestern speech. The corresponding standard accent in Britain is known as Received Pronunciation (RP for short); this accent is very closely associated with the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and it's based on South-East England speech, particularly the variety that is cultivated in public schools and the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

As standard accents go, GA and RP are still the most widely recommended models for teaching the language to non-native speakers across the world. RP has been losing lots of ground, however, which basically leaves GA right up there as not only a national standard accent but as the international standard.

Japanese English? It's not going to happen as a regional variety of the language simply for the fact that there isn't a large-enough pool of speakers raised as bilinguals. It might still gain some viability as an accent of Standard English. As such, it does exist, sort of: it's what happens when you type Standard English in katakana and then read it out loud. This, however, is "broken": it disregards too many distinctions that are basic to the sound system of English.

To take the issue of /l/ vs. /r/ which you raise; Japanenese has neither of these two sounds. What it does have is the sound in *hara*, for example: a single tap of the tongue against the tooth ridge. This sound *does* exist in GA, but in terms of the English sound system it doesn't stand on its own, it's only a variant of /t/ when it appears between two vowels, as in "city". This only makes matters more complicated for Japanese learners of English, however. It doesn't help them make a distinction, inexistent in katakana, between /l/ and /r/; most students, if they manage to articulate the sounds in the first place, will use them almost indiscriminately, as if these sounds were mutually interchangeable. As a consequence, the distinction between "lead" and "read" tends to collapse. This, and a fair number of other crucial distinctions that Japanese English fails to make, doesn't exactly turn it into a "joke", but it limits its viability as an internationally accepted accent of Standard English.


That's a really great site! I was surprised to find some samples by Japanese. Very interesting! :)


Thanks for nice info! It's always great to learn something new. And I'm glad you say "feb-rew-ary".


Hmm...I'd rather you didn't take the "EngRish" and "Japanese English" stuff seriously....

Gomen nasai, sensei.

I tend to get carried away when the mood is upon me.

No problem. The comment itself was a great lecture.