Do you know what’s really hard?
Living in Australia as a non-australian, but sounding like one.
You see, I have nearly perfected the Australian accent. It is now extremely rare that someone asks me where I am from or where my accent comes from. I haven’t tried very hard at sounding aussie, but it has just happened naturally, as I have always had a good ear for languages. I had top grades in both English and German in school and never seemed to have a problem with pronunciations and stuff. I also pride myself in trying to write as correctly as I possibly can, and I do not like being lazy with my writing. Sometimes even Simon asks me to read through his Uni assignments to look for errors, as I am a stickler and a grammar Nazi.
You may think that this makes things easier. People won’t make fun of my accent, or I won’t be judged by people who see me as a foreigner (believe me, I have been accused of moving here to get benefits from the government – which I don’t get anyway. If you do that, I will laugh in your face, as NOBODY would move AWAY from Norway for financial gain.). By people assuming I am Australian when they talk to me without knowing me, there are no preconceived ideas about anything at all.
The problem is, though, that I am NOT Australian. I have the accent, but I don’t have the language. I don’t have the experience of being Australian, and I certainly don’t have aussie mannerisms and sense of humour. The problem is that so often, and by often I mean every day, I speak with people who have grown up aussie, lived aussie, talked aussie and been aussie – and I will never be like them! As much as the melody and intonation is just like theirs, the words that come out only sound Australian based on pure… luck?
So often I find myself in tricky situations. Still, after five years of living here, I can never reply to a “how are you” without overthinking it. Without feeling awkward or as if I am saying too little or too much. Did I ask them back? I very often talk to people and choose the wrong words for the situation I am in. And while I try to find the right words, I can hear them thinking “why is this perfectly normal Australian having such trouble with simple conversations??”
I end up insulting people. I end up using the wrong word, sentence or saying and because I do not sound like someone with English as a second language, I don’t automatically have a lifeline to hold on to. Some things that sound awesome, funny or normal in my head just doesn’t translate well once it rolls off of my tongue. Usually I can hear it though, and I will know that I have stuffed up. I try to save it, and sometimes I can, sometimes it’s too far gone.
I love it when I actually make friends that do know I am not Australian. People that understand that if I say something awkward, lame, insulting or just plain wrong, it is usually not meant that way. People who will help me find the right words or explain why I can’t say what I just said or laugh at my awkward hand gestures trying to find the correct thing to say. People who won’t give a toss if it comes out wrong because they know there is no mean intention behind it.
The looks I get from people when I try to say something and it comes out completely wrong – sometimes I want to just say “Okay, thanks, bye.”
If you are a new friend of mine, please remember that although my words are pronounced correctly, and that I have worked up quite a good vocabulary, sometimes the sentences I put together just don’t make all that much sense. And I never mean to insult or offend! (But if I do, please just tell me; “You can’t say that to people, Line…..”)
Courtesy of 9gag.com
Almost every day I ask Simon for help. ‘How do I say this?’ ‘How could I have said that differently?’
Of course, I could introduce myself as Norwegian to people, but I won’t do that to the cashier at the supermarket or the mums at school that know nothing about me except who my child is. I am not going to make up a t-shirt saying “Excuse the occasional, unintentional foot-in-mouth – I am Norwegian”. And to be honest, sometimes when I HAVE introduced myself and said I was Norwegian, people haven’t know anything about it… Or assume that I moved here as a child and therefore it wouldn’t make much of a difference. I have done so before though, explained the whole “I am from Norway, English is my second language, please don’t be offended if I say something weird…” – but I don’t really feel like making excuses for myself before I even know someone.
And I am much funnier in Norwegian, too!