I read an excerpt from Shine and wonder what to do about my accent

Shine is officially released on 5 September 2013. It is already available for download on Kindle!

I made this over the weekend and then vacillated about whether I would actually post it.

It's just me reading an excerpt from SHINE from the screen of my computer, but after I made it, I realized that I'd read it in the mainly British accent that I use here in London and not the mainly American accent that I use elsewhere.

I did try a Filipino accent to start with but I abandoned that idea because it's hard to remember what my normal Filipino accent is when I'm not surrounded by Filipinos. I appear to be one of those weirdos who acquire the accents of the people they are talking to.

But this ... I worried that my Filipino peeps would consider it some kind of betrayal.

From TV Newsroom
I am all too aware of the experience of London-grown news anchor Veronica Pedrosa who suffered the suspicious criticism of Filipinos who thought the British accent was a put on.

Veronica anchored for Al-Jazeera and CNN before that and was subject to cruel speculation about an accent that was perceived as fake. Ironically, an American accent would have been seen as more acceptable.

When I was growing up in the Philippines many many years ago, the ability to speak English was so highly prized that at one point, I had a teacher who fined us a few centavos for every Tagalog word that slipped into our answers.

Tagalog, of Malay extraction, is the most widely spoken language in the Philippines and the basis for Pilipino (called 'Filipino' since the 1980s), which is one of our two national languages. Pilipino/Filipino was created out of the Tagalog language, to much opprobium from speakers of the other languages.

There are 120 to 175 languages in the Philippines you only have to drive a few miles out of Manila to find people speaking another language. If you've got the energy, you can read about the evolution of Filipino here - a reminder to Filipinos of how recently our country developed its national identity.

The other national language is English.

Tribal boys learning English at the turn of the other century.

Funnily enough, since we became an American colony in the 1898, it's become the lingua franca across our seven thousand one hundred and seven islands because education, law and politics has been largely conducted in English, though that is changing.

Which is why, when my family migrated to Manila from the Visayan-speaking South when I was three years old, English became the language we chose to speak at home. As a result, I was terrible at all my Pilipino subjects in school. I remember my Pilipino essays in primary school: all the Visayan words encircled with red ball point pen and the teacher's scribble 'This is not a Pilipino word")

'How can you call yourself a Filipino?' one exasperated teacher in Pilipino literature once asked me when I yet again resorted to an English word for lack of vocabulary.

I really did wonder if I could call myself a Filipino. Looking back now, I realize my problem was not because I was not Filipino enough. I just came from another island where we spoke a different language.

Sadly all this (and ubiquitous American TV) led to the erasure of Visayan from my vocabulary.

Though I can still understand a bit of Visayan, it has faded from my linguistic memory.

Good morning! (From DepEd)
The Philippines has just introduced a new educational system called the K to12 which subscribes to the idea that children learn best in their mother tongue - so early years education will now be delivered in local languages, with Filipino and English taught as separate subjects.

I am no educator, so I can't really offer any words of wisdom, praise or criticism about the new venture - except to say I'm glad no child will ever again be accused of not being Filipino enough because of the language they speak.

On one of my visits to a provincial school, a group of teachers eyed my approach with visible apprehension. When I opened my mouth to say hello in Tagalog, they all sighed with relief.

'Ma'am, when we heard you were an author from England, we thought you would speak to us in English!' one teacher explained. 'We were all suffering from nosebleeds!' (Note to teachers: please don't call me Ma'am!)

Nosebleed is Filipino comedy slang for linguistic low self esteem ... as in: 'Your English was so high falutin I got a nosebleed' (we conjugate the word nosebleed as if it was Tagalog).

Growing up with this constant linguistic tension - those who are fluent sneering, those who aren't, feeling insecure - I wanted to show that people are not just their accents.

In my first novel TALL STORY (Spoiler - if you want to read it please highlight and the words will become visible), English is not my character Bernardo's strongest point. And though I write his thoughts in complex English, whenever he opens his mouth the English comes out hilarious and mixed up. It was hard work to capture that kind of speech because I was not physically in the Philippines to get that Pinoy vibe ... but  I got a lot of help from a hilarious Filipino book called The More the Manyer.

Anyway, I decided to post this video and hope for the best.

You might be interested in my recent postings. Click on the thumbnails to view:

How to Become a WriterMy Video ReadingUnboxing First Copies 

Q&A at Tamarind Books
Riffing on Rain in Shine
Chasing happiness