LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||09/SET/2009 2:08 AM|
|Assunto:||Spelling over the phone|
The US Army has a phonetic alphabet as do many police departments (I should say, "law enforcement agencies").
NN, I don't remember many accent problems in Brazil. I used to fight a lot with Brasiltelecom, and one of the secretaries would make faces (caretas) when I would come in to complain. And I was there weekly. I thought at the time she didn't adore my accent, but maybe it was something else. I don't remember anyone making a big deal about it. Once in Foz a fellow asked my friend if I was German. She said I was American. He replied, "Then he doesn't speak Portuguese." Without saying a word to me, he'd decided he could not communicate with me. At a "posto de saude" in RGS an old gaúcho said something to me, and I couldn't understand more than 50% of his statement. He laughed and said, "You have trouble with Portuguese!" I felt like saying, "So do you, seu babaca." He had a caipira accent "that could be cut with a knife".
Here in Costa Rica they can be downright rude about accents. In some cases, I believe, they are so uptight about talking with a foreigner that they simply do not listen well. About a month ago I was sitting in a taxi chatting with the driver while waiting for my son when the taxi driver grunted something unintelligible to me. Apparently he'd said something in English. He then asked in Spanish if I spoke Spanish. I asked him if we had been talking in Chinese. It took him a moment to realize what a dumb question he'd asked. The world is full of idiots.
We equate not having a foreign accent with speaking a language well. That simply isn't true. I've met many people who can easily pass as a native speaker if you are not listening carefully to them. If you really listen, however, you'll hear one mistake after another. One of the first Brazilians I ever met spoke wonder English. His vocabulary was that of a university professor. However, Luigi had a very thick accent. Again, not having a foreign accent doesn't mean that the speaker has a good command of the language. And the opposite is true. And speaking well doesn't mean that one can write well, and vice versa. My son has a cousin who speaks English like an American, but she can't write her name in English. I have no idea how they let her out of school in the USA. I knew a Japanese girl who spoke excellent English, but she simply couldn't write in English. Strange.
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