Accents liven up the the human race. Think how boring life would be if we were all the same and did not have to decipher a sentence or phrase spoken by someone. Deep southern drawls, the dropped “r” of New Englanders, e.g. Pahk yah cah (park your car), or Great Lakes English where “top” sounds like “tap.” Accents are cool. I will bet you did not even know you had one. I found out I do.
My flight to Phnom Penh was late. I arrived at midnight, safe and sound. My pre-arranged taxi driver was waiting for me. Meng is a nice young man, around 30 years old. He is handsome, slim, has coal black hair and a polite demeanor. He drives a Lexus SUV. It is a 2004 model which he bought for $12,000 dollars. He had $4,000 saved and financed $8,000. His payments are $284.37 per month. I learned a lot in our 20 minute drive from the airport to my hotel.
Meng is the father of two, a 7-month-old boy and a 1 year 9-month-old little girl. He works hard to make his car payment and put food on the table for his little family. His wife does not work since their children are so small, she stays home to care for them. His little boy was born by caesarean section. The hospital bill came to more than usual, $800. He had $400 in savings but his wife and baby could not leave until it he paid the bill in full. Fortunately, a man hired him to drive him to Siem Reap, which gave him enough money to pay the balance. Because he was working he didn’t see his son immediately after his birth, but viewed his picture on his phone. The loan on his car is for 36 months, and he is halfway through that obligation with the bank. I asked Meng if he had car insurance and he said no, it is too expensive.
Meng speaks in broken, halting English. His word order is mixed up, but I understood him (what does that say of me?). I figured out what he was saying by the context of our conversation and his intonation. I asked Meng if he could understand me. He said, “Yes, a little, but you speak very fast.”
Californian’s do speak fast and have a distinct accent. This morning I was in the corner market next to my hotel, buying bottled water (While many do it, it is not safe to drink or even brush your teeth with tap water). A young man was at the counter and I struck up a conversation with him. “You are very tall” I said. He replied, “Especially Cambodia, I’m Japanese.” I asked him if he played basketball and he said, “No, baseball is my sport.” Baseball? “I’m a Dodgers fan” I said. “Kenta Maeda!” he responded (Maeda is a Dodgers starting pitcher and he is from Japan). This guy was a Dodgers fan too.
He asked me where I was from, “California” I said. “I can tell” he replied. “Really?” I looked at him, smiled and said, “How can you tell? Do I sound like a movie star?” He said, “Yes!”. Years ago I was in a coffee shop in Zurich, Switzerland. The waiter asked me if I was from California. “Why yes, how did you know?”. His answer, “You sound like a movie star.”
So I do speak with an accent, and a famous one at that! Yes, accents make for conversation and livens up lives. Your accent will too.
[Today was a rest day. I am going to bed early since I got in at 1:00 AM this morning and got up at 5:55 AM. I am looking forward to a good day tomorrow.]