Sojeong “Lucy” Jeong shares her experiences about learning English in Boston. Oh the different accents! Read more here.
Born in South Korea and immigrated to Toronto, Canada at age 6, I had no clue how to speak English when my family first moved. I started to learn Canadian English while I went to elementary and middle school in Canada until my family moved to America in Boston, MA due to my dad’s work.
Living in Boston, MA as a Canadian immigrant, I’ve noticed that every people spoke English differently and have different accents. Even in Toronto where I am originally from, everyone has a habit of saying ‘eh’ at the end of every sentence. On the other hand, when I went into middle school in Boston, MA, I found out that the spellings of certain word are significantly different between Canadian and American English. For example, there was a spelling bee contest when I first moved to Boston. The first word I had to spell out was ‘color’. It was fairly easy so I spelled it out loud as I learned in elementary school back in Canada. I said, ‘C-O-L-O-U-R’ “COLOUR!” As soon as I spelled out the word, I heard the buzzers go off and the judge yelled out, “Wrong!” and moved on the kid next to me. Before that moment, I was so confident on my answer; however, after I found out that the spellings were wrong, I didn’t know why I was wrong. From that moment, I knew it wasn’t the same English I was taught and spoken in Canada. I had to relearn everything in America from saying certain words like “colored pencil” instead of “pencil crayon”. Moreover, I had to ask the teacher if I can go to the “bathroom” instead of “washroom.”
Everything wasn’t same I figured. However, this wasn’t the end. Not only I had to correct my Canadian English, I had to learn how to understand Boston accent. The Bostonians have their own way of pronouncing English words, vocabulary, and even a unique grammar. For instance, I had to meet my friends on Harvard Avenue. Waiting for her to park her car, one of my friends called me and said“I pahk ma cah in Hahvuhd Yahd.” When I heard this I knew this wasn’t English for sure. I was curious and asked her, “What does that mean?” She exclaimed, “I park my car in Harvard yard.” When I heard the sentence, I burst into laugher. I knew I wasn’t going to understand Boston accent. I noticed Bostonians pronounced “R’s” as in “Ah” and pronounced “O’s” like “ahh” for example, “Boston” becomes “Bahhst-inn” and “Octopus” becomes “Ahhctapus.” Lastly, they pronounced “A’s” like “ah” similar but different than the Canadians with the “eh.” Now that I lived in Boston for 11 years, I’m comfortable speaking to a person with thickest Boston accent. Sometimes, I find myself having a Canadian accent ‘eh’; however, over the years, I lost my accent and speak regular American English. Thank god, I can understand but don’t have a Boston accent!
International Student Voice Magazine is awarding $100 to an international student every two weeks by writing short essays about different topics.
The topic for microscholarship #1 was “weird English words”. Sojeong “Lucy” Jeong attending Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences was a finalist for this microscholarship. Learn more about our microscholarship by clicking here.