I have been in the US for 14 years now, it is not like I am just off the boat. However, for whatever reason my accent remains as thick and difficult to understand for the average American ear, that hears me talk for the first time, as it was when I first arrived. It is what it is, nothing I seem to do can change that. My own kids even make fun of me, saying I speak “weird”. When their friends visit my eldest will invariably say, “don’t worry if you don’t understand my Dad, it’s just that he’s Australian, that’s all”. Huh, my wife is Australian too but apparently she is better at adapting to the local language than me, she doesn’t get the same treatment from our kids, but then again she isn’t hairy with a big nose.
Well for the most part the accent has always been simply a bit of a trial but yesterday was one of the odd times when I REALLY had to explain myself. I was at a regional airport organizing a small plane to take me to Elkader, Iowa. Say it again slowly….El-kad-er. Small town, hard to get to, especially if you are pressed for time. Well, in my seemingly “unique” accent it sounded more like “I would like to take a plane for Al Qaeda”. Four people standing around the counter sort of looked at me nervously, looked at each other and didn’t say anything. Clearly something was amiss, I rubbed my nose, thinking maybe I had a stray booger on the loose. But alas, no such luck, so I just kept smiling and repeated my request slower….”small plane, I need, for Al Qaeda”. Their continued blank stares would indicate that I may have a bigger issue than obtaining transport. I could have wanted to go to Lebanon (Kentucky), Peru (Indiana) or even Bagdad (Florida), but no, I wanted to go to the one town in the US, that with my accent, sounds like a terrorist organization. Outstanding! Anyway, in the end, I got my point across but only after some very slow talking explanations. Good thing these guys knew me, or at least they said “we thought we knew you”!
So what did I learn? Keep smiling, no matter how oddly people look at you and also maybe I should check out some language translation apps on the iPhone. Surely there is one that deals with OzMerican?