More on Language / Ethnicity Mismatch

In previous entries, here and here, I noted the charm of unexpected combinations of ethnicity and spoken language. A man from Hyderabad who spoke with a German accent, young women of African background who had been raised in Sweden. [Note to pedants: I said "charm" rather than problem, abnormality, outrage, etc. Also, yes I do realize that accent is an acquired rather than an inborn trait, so strictly speaking there's no reason why someone from India shouldn't sound like an extra from Hogan's Heroes. I'm just talking about a little interesting gracenote from today's mobile world.]

Updates on the theme, starting off with a reader's memory from Africa:

Over 50 years ago, as a young child in Nigeria I accompanied my Dad to deliver some examination papers to the mission at the end of the road, beyond the reach of radio or telephone. Our expedition included a utility vehicle with driver, and a cook for the Government Rest Houses along the way. We forded streams and crossed rivers on cable-stayed rafts, and we were the tourist sight, as whites were rarely sighted that far out in the bush. Up and up we went, the thick tropical jungle thinning out, till at last we reached the isolated community where the elderly Scottish couple had devoted their lives to saving native souls, and had brought with them civilization, the concepts of sin and one God, and the English language. Everything seemed normal until the Africans, whose only "English" they had learned from this couple, greeted us - and sounded as if they had stepped straight out of the highlands of Scotland! Close your eyes and you could see the kilts and hear the bagpipes; open them and it was pure Monty Python.


It's not just Europe.  My daughter, adopted from Asia, can speak fluent Ebonics and another Asian teenager nearby speaks with a nearly indecipherable Appalachian accent.

One more after the jump:

When I was at Berkeley 30 or so years ago), I had a friend who was a sportswriter for the Daily Cal  and sometimes traveled with the teams.  He came back from a trip once and started to tell me about it, but after a word or too, broke out laughing.  He tried a few more times, but couldn't get the words out past his giggling.  Finally, he managed to gasp:

"I met Asians with southern accents!"....

This was a few years before the stand-up comedian Henry Cho made a career of being an Asian guy from Tennessee.

FWIW, Henry Cho's promotional info begins, "Crowds don't know what to think when Henry Cho starts talking...a full blooded Korean with a deep East Tennessee drawl?"