Tuesday, October 16, 2007


When I listen to people speaking Spanish, I wonder, as I grasp for familiar words, if I sound like I'm speaking English that fast, if people learning English listening to me and my friends can't catch everything because of swallowed letters and poor enunciation. When I'm having a conversation in Spanish, particularly on the phone, I find myself saying "despacio, por favor" ("slowly, please") until they probably feel like they are pausing between each word while I catch up.

I've been thinking about this recently because last week I caught part of a radio program called Latino U.S.A, during which several Latino authors read from essays included in How I Learned English. Jose Serrano's essay was about how he learned to speak English by listening to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, who was from Hoboken originally and whose accent never totally faded, had famously clear enunciation, which I've heard he learned by speaking with marbles in his mouth.

I know I don't speak totally clearly. My mother would often comment on the speech of her "native Californian children" whenever we said something like "Hurry up" or "It's in the drawer." When Zirpu and I are tired both of us drawl. But having been raised reciting "Hail to thee, blithe spirit/Bird thou never wert" in honor of Mom's elocution teacher Miss Spencer, I'm no mushmouth.

This morning I was showering at the gym when someone opened the curtain, despite the sound of water and the towel hanging on the hook next to the shower. She quickly shut the curtain and when I stuck my head out I said to her back, "Usually when there's a towel, it means someone's there!"

Except what it sounded like was, "Yooj'ly wen derz a towel, smeensumonezere!"

No comments: