Thursday, September 10, 2009

English with a Hindi Accent?

Early on, Evan had difficulty communicating with his local schoolmates - especially in Class I where most of the children primarily spoke Hindi. The other kids and Indian adults had difficulty understanding his American accent and he became very self-conscious.

I think his early solution to this anxiety was to just stay very, very quiet at school. He became an observer rather than a speaker. Evan has never been very out-going, but this increased reticence worried us about his ability to adapt to his new social environment.

Much of our concern has evaporated over the past months. An incident this weekend confirmed this... Evan had a play-date with his good friend and classmate, Pulkesh. It was just the three of us at the apartment. Lesa and Audrey were out shopping with a friend in Delhi. We went swimming in the pool and later, the boys had fun playing with Star Wars figures in Evan's room.

That's when I observed the change. Evan would speak in his normal voice to me, but when he spoke to Pulkesh, his voice and accent completely changed. He was speaking with a thick North Indian accent to Pulkesh... Indian-English. I had to do a double take to see who was speaking. Audrey has used an Indian accent on occasion for some time, but not to this extent. Evan was doing what a Speech Pathologist calls "language code switching."

Evan (the observer) figured out the easiest way to connect with his Indian schoolmates was to mimic their speech. And I have to say, it seems to work. Pulkesh didn't seem to notice or acknowledge Evan was switching his speech. And Pulkesh was clearly understanding what Evan was saying! It didn't affect their play together in anyway. The boys were just having fun.

Lesa and I still worry about Evan a bit, but less now that we have both seen this new "India" version of him emerge. Kids are far more adaptable than their parents ever will be!

3 comments:

Kate said...

This is cool about Evan. But please come home and don't forget the Texas twang, because it always made me feel loved.

HouseBoy said...

Evan and Audrey can switch from Texas twang to English public school to North-Indian English in the flash of an eye.

Thanks for reading.

CarolinCali said...

Amazing! I am so proud of him. Missing you guys.